The Tandon community unites against COVID19

a student wearing a facemask holding a bin of PPE to donate to hospital

Doctoral candidate Deniz Vurmaz poses with PPE she and her peers gathered, in collaboration with Tandon faculty, to donate to health care providers at local hospitals.

In times of adversity, it often helps to stay conscious of the individuals and organizations fighting on our behalf. The Tandon community has always fostered a spirit of collective effort, and that has never been more apparent than in our community’s work to mobilize against COVID19 and distribute necessary PPE (personal protective equipment) to those most in need. 

Medical professionals across the globe are truly rising to the occasion. Doctors, nurses, social workers, and so many others are putting their wellness at risk in order to save lives and slow the spread of COVID19. Even medical students, despite having been relieved of their clinical duties, are choosing to return to their hospitals as volunteers. One of those dedicated individuals is Tandon alum Lindsay Hill. Hill and her peers never questioned whether or not they’d be returning to their hospitals, only where they could provide the most assistance. Hill states, “The moment SUNY Downstate [Hill’s hospital] announced that medical students were no longer permitted at our clinical sites, we came together to strategize ways in which we could help the healthcare workers at our hospital affiliates.” 

As a volunteer, Hill quickly observed the need for increased support at SUNY Downstate’s clinical microbiology lab, which was overwhelmed by the intensified workload as they launched in-house COVID19 testing. In response, she organized a task force of roughly 50 students to assist in various capacities, from testing samples to managing calls and communicating directly with the Department of Health. All the while, they still had to navigate another issue of ever-mounting severity: the international shortage of essential PPE like gloves, face masks, and shoe covers. Without those items healthcare providers working in service of their community would be putting themselves, their families, and their patients at increased risk of exposure to COVID19. As supplies dwindled, hospitals and labs like Hill’s wondered how they would be able to continue their necessary work.

At the same time, Jin Montclare, Hill’s mentor and an NYU Tandon professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, was also searching for ways to provide aid to those in need. She and her colleagues had seen on the news that hospitals were struggling to procure PPE and they quickly began looking for ways to distribute the supplies in Montclare’s lab and Tandon's cleanroom.

Montclare said that once she became aware of Hill’s volunteer work she immediately reached out, and everything else just fell into place: “Once I connected with Lindsay, she was able to let us know what was needed and while my lab had a couple of items, I contacted my department as well and inquired about our cleanroom facilities. My colleagues came through and within a matter of a single day, collected what we could. Even when it was thought we had given everything, there was more to find and donate.” 

Together, Hill, Montclare, and the cadre of people helping them disbursed Tandon’s PPE to SUNY Downstate, King’s County, and the Brooklyn Veteran’s Hospital. In this specific effort, NYU Tandon donated: 

  • 5,400 gloves
  • 1,323 face masks
  • 47 cleanroom suits 
  • 180 shoe covers

Several boxes of PPE from Tandon

Supplies went to ensuring that the individuals who’ve dedicated their lives to our collective health and safety are able to continue their work without fear of getting and spreading COVID19.  

Even more remarkably, this work inspired further efforts and Tandon faculty soon orchestrated another successful PPE run, lead by doctoral candidate Deniz Vurmaz. 

Other participants involved in this slew of Tandon donations were CBE department professors David Pine, Bruce Garetz, Ryan HartmanMiguel ModestinoAndre Taylor, and Ayaskanta Sahu; along with Ph.D. Candidates Omar Gowayed, Ingrid Paredes and Yao Wang.

Without the combined efforts of those within and outside of our community, that PPE might never have left their storage rooms and made it into the hands of the people who needed them. When asked how she motivated herself to take charge of distributing her lab’s supplies, and how others might challenge themselves to make a difference in their communities, Montclare responded:

“Go with your gut. I think people doubt themselves and think that someone more important or with more expertise has probably already done what they’re considering doing. And if it hasn’t already been done, they worry that means it’s not a good idea. But in a crisis, everyone has a lot to think about. And good ideas need the push.” She continued, “I think a lot of people default to thinking that their contributions are insignificant or that someone else who’s closer to an ER and/or a higher-up in the administration who would have oversight over multiple labs or multiple buildings or the whole campus are probably doing something. But no matter how big or small one might think of themselves, each of us can make a positive difference.” 

Hill’s poignant response was equally thoughtful: 

“This city is my home, those health care workers are my family, so if we can play a small part in helping to protect those protecting us, how could we not?”

Leigh Green 
BA, Sociology
Class of 2021