Faculty Give Urgently Needed Medical Resources to Coronavirus Responders

Mar 26, 2020

by Greg Williams
Publications Editor

In mid-March, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), Florida Southern made the decision to move face-to-face courses to remote instruction for the rest of the semester. The immediate need to prepare faculty for a switch to remote teaching involved many important decisions.

Boxing donations
Biology instructor Tim Moore and Jenna West, scientific materials manager, ready boxes of supplies for donation.
FSC’s Dr. Nancy Morvillo, professor of biology and chair of the department, left, and Dr. Susan Banks, assistant professor of biology, take inventory of medical supplies to be donated.

One decision was especially easy to make. 

“A no-brainer,” said Dr. Nancy Morvillo, professor of biology and chair of the department. “Everybody said, ‘Let’s do it!'" 

As FSC’s faculty members were engaged in the weeklong process of remote-instructional training, Dr. Brittany Gasper, associate professor of biology, realized that the cancellation of in-person lab work would leave a large quantity of personal protective equipment untouched for at least several months — essential supplies of medical-grade gloves, face masks, safety glasses, isolation gowns, and more. Because of COVID-19, healthcare professionals all around the nation were suddenly dealing with critical shortages of those items.

“In a perfect world, we would be having class and using the supplies,” said Dr. Gasper, “the same kind of things that would be used in medical facilities.” During a group chat with biology department colleagues on March 19, Dr. Gasper mentioned her idea of donating those much-needed supplies from FSC’s stored inventory.

“We double-checked with all of the faculty and I got in touch with the administration,“ Dr. Morvillo said. “Everyone was enthusiastic and supportive.”

The idea quickly spread to other departments that routinely keep lab equipment on hand, and planning was soon underway to donate whatever supplies could be spared to Lakeland Regional Health.

By March 24, faculty and staff from FSC’s biology department teamed with colleagues from the fields of chemistry, nursing, physical therapy, and citrus and horticulture to gather items to be donated. “Anything that would help a healthcare worker to stay healthy, to not be infected by a pathogen, and to not pass on a pathogen to anyone else,” in the words of Dr. Morvillo.

Jenna West, scientific materials manager, and M.C. Mendoza, laboratory materials coordinator, helped lead the charge. The pair knew all the nooks and crannies where lab supplies for the biology and chemistry departments were kept.

Thumbs up
Moore and West celebrate the results of FSC's donation initiative to help protect local healthcare professionals.

In the course of about two hours of concentrated searching and packing, the FSC team pulled together an impressive collection of available supplies: 19,400 pairs of synthetic nitrile gloves and 875 pairs of nitrile long gloves; 100 pairs of chemical-resistant neoprene gloves; 50 pairs of surgical gloves; 900 facial masks; 411 lab coats; 60 isolation gowns; 42 goggles; 12 safety glasses; and two face shields.

Said Dr. Gasper: “When I saw the final totals, I was surprised by how much we were able to donate to help prevent infection among the healthcare workers, to keep them safe while treating or testing individuals.”

Dr. Sara Fletcher Harding, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and professor of religion, was delighted with the donations.

"I want to thank our faculty for seeing a need in the community and working to fill it in such an impactful way,” she said.