As the COVID-19 pandemic spread throughout Detroit, Wayne State University’s Chinese faculty knew what was coming.
With many of their friends and family having already gone through China’s coronavirus outbreak earlier this year, they understood the impending challenges medical professionals and first responders might face without adequate personal protection equipment — and how serious the situation might be if they were affected.
“We felt it was our duty and everyone’s responsibility to protect these first responders,” said Wanqing Liu, associate professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the Eugene Applebaum College of
Pharmacy and Health Sciences. “The Chinese faculty were motivated when we saw (WSU Vice President of Research) Dr. Stephen Lanier’s call in March for PPE donation, especially since we closely followed what has happened in China since the COVID-19 pandemic began.”
Dr. Liu and 11 other faculty members felt they could play a role in organizing the donation and transportation of PPE from China.
Via connections with relatives and friends in China, Dr. Liu and colleagues gathered 50,000 pieces of various PPE and organized donations to surrounding area hospitals and police departments. The group later coordinated with other local Chinese organizations to set up monetary donations. By the end of April, the team had received nearly $30,000.
“When Detroit was starting to see the trend tick upward, the pandemic had been mostly controlled in China. The production of PPE in China — the world’s largest producer — had started to increase,” Dr. Liu said. “We knew we could play a unique role in organizing the donation and transportation of PPE from China — the majority of which were sent here via numerous small DHL packages.”
Collectively, the group donated more than 2,800 N95/KN95 masks, 8,500 surgical masks, 100 isolation gowns and more to University Physician Group, the Kresge Eye Insitutes, the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute and the Henry Ford Health System. The team also donated more than 1,500 N95 and 6,000 surgical masks to other community hospitals, including Henry Ford Macomb, Beaumont, St. Joseph and Providence, as well as police departments in Detroit, Rochester Hills and other communities.
In addition to Dr. Liu, the other organizers included:
Fu-Shin Yu, Ph.D., of the School of Medicine
Hua Ou in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Yubing Ge, Ph.D., of the School of Medicine
Yuning Wu of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Jiemei Wang of the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Services
Li Li, Ph.D. of the School of Medicine
Fei Chen of the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Services
Yang Jiang of the School of Medicine
Kezhong Zhang, Ph.D., of the School of Medicine
Haidong Gu of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Jinping Xu of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
“Along with our friends, previous school mates and relatives in China, we organized together to answer the call,” Dr. Liu said. “It is truly an amazing feeling to see people united to fight this pandemic together and put aside their origin, ethnicity, race and beliefs.”