The Collegian
Tuesday, August 04, 2020

UR chemistry professor organizes PPE donation to heathcare workers

<p>The Gottwald Science Center, home of the biology, chemistry and physics departments.</p>

The Gottwald Science Center, home of the biology, chemistry and physics departments.

A chemistry professor at the University of Richmond spearheaded a donation of more than 7,000 pairs of latex gloves, also known as person protective equipment (PPE), to healthcare workers struggling to keep up with the growing demands placed on Virginia hospitals because of COVID-19.

Micheal Leopold, a chemistry professor, had a conversation with his neighbor Carrie McCauley in early March about the COVID-19 outbreak, he said. McCauley, a trauma and medical emergency nurse at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, mentioned she and her colleagues were running out of latex gloves for the healthcare providers, he said. 

Leopold realized that his vacant research lab was full of gloves that wouldn’t be used by students, who were now learning online, he said.  

“It’s silly to have personal protective equipment [PPE] that’s usable for something this important,” Leopold said. 

He packaged up 1,200 pairs of gloves that were in his lab and dropped them off at McCauley's house, he said. 

“[McCauley] wrote me the next day and said that all the other nurses were completely excited and thankful and grateful for the help,” he said.

Leopold knew he was not the only professor with a supply of PPE that was about to sit in a lab untouched for the next couple of months, he said. He started emailing professors in the science department to see if they also wanted to donate their supplies, he said. 

“The response from my colleagues was great,” Leopold said. “Everyone was ready to jump on board and help.”

With the approval of Christopher Stevenson, chair of the chemistry department, and Patrice Rankine, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, Leopold collected boxes of gloves--from classrooms that he was granted permission to take gloves from-- in the Gottwald Center for the Sciences. He gathered approximately 7,000 pairs for donations, not including the 1,200 gloves he gave to McCauley.

“Mike Leopold is someone who always takes a lot of initiative,” Rankine said. “He realized the surplus had a match to the need.”

Leopold gave the gloves to UR’s Director of Emergency Management, Brittany Schaal. 

“It’s really my job to connect the dots,” Schaal said. 

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Schaal communicates with the city of Richmond and Henrico County to prepare for and respond to emergencies that occur both on campus and in the community, she said. 

Schaal reached out to the Central Virginia All Hazards Incident Management Team about the PPE donations. 

“What they're doing is working with the local health departments in the hospitals and other healthcare providers in the area to see how much PPE they're going through on a day-to-day basis and what their particular needs are,” Schaal said.

The team then distributes the resources to the areas that are most at risk, she said. 

Her contact, Grant Azdell, is a representative for the Institute of Higher Education who served on the Central Virginia All Hazards Incident Management Team. Azdell reached out to other institutions in the area to encourage similar donations, including VCU, Randolph-Macon College and the College of William and Mary, Schaal said.

Azdell could not be contacted for comment. 

“That was the whole goal, to get other and bigger schools that are sitting on a lot more equipment to do the same thing,” Leopold said. 

Schaal said that if the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, she may see requests for housing or meals for the healthcare workers. These requests are happening in other parts of the country that are a little further along in the pandemic, she said. 

“If we get [housing or meal requests] and if we have the capacity to continue supporting our campus community, and the greater community, we will absolutely look into providing whatever resource or donations requested,” Schaal said. “If we can, we want to be a good community partner.”

Contact news writer Ellie Watson at ellie.watson@richmond.edu.

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