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 (PPE) — 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.”
Via connections with relatives and friends in China, Liu — along with 11 other WSU Chinese faculty members — gathered a total of 50,000 pieces of various PPE and organized donations for 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 PPEs in China — the world’s largest producer — had started to increase,” Liu said. “We knew we could play a unique role in organizing the donation and transportation of PPEs from China — the majority of which were sent here via numerous small DHL packages.”
Collectively, WSU’s Chinese faculty donated more than 2,800 N95/KN95 masks, 8,500 surgical masks, 100 isolation gowns and more to University Physician Group, Karmanos Eye and Cancer Institutes, and 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 areas.
In addition to Liu, the other organizers included:
- Fu-Shin Yu with Karmanos Eye Institute
- Hua Ou in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS)
- Yubing Ge with Karmanos Cancer Institute
- Yuning Wu (CLAS)
- Jiemei Wang in Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Services
- Li Li in the School of Medicine (SOM)
- Fei Chen (EACPHS)
- Yang Jiang (SOM)
- Kezhong Zhang with WSU’s Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics
- Haidong Gu (CLAS)
- Jinping Xu (CLAS)
“Along with our friends, previous school mates and relatives in China, we organized together to answer the call,” 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.”