For their first Project SEED, students in the inaugural class of Pfeiffer University’s Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (MS-PAS) program raised $1,200 for the manufacture of 120 experimental face shields and distributed them as donations to clinics, fire departments and paramedics in North Carolina and Maryland.
The shields, which are being developed by Kathy’s Customs LLC of Charlotte as a prototype, would be a low-cost way to address the shortage of personal protective equipment among healthcare professionals confronting the COVID-19 pandemic. They would work in tandem with N95 surgical masks to provide an extra layer of protection from the Coronavirus’ fluid projectiles and to lengthen the amount of time that a mask can be used.
The “SEED” in Project SEED stands for Serving Everyone, Embracing Diversity – a concept that guides the efforts of PA students to raise awareness of problems and to come up with solutions to them.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these first-year PA students,” said Dr. Tom Earnhardt, the project’s coordinator. “As they learned about the structure of this new virus in medical microbiology and the strain it’s having on the medical profession, I could see them struggling with the desire to get out into the field and help out. Realizing they are still early in their educational journey and not yet ready for practice, they discovered a way to help fight the battle in this time of great need.”
Hunter Rogers, Kayla Miles and Rachel Nance (all PA students at Pfeiffer) led efforts to raise money for the face shields’ manufacture. They all also boxed-up the shields, and Miles and Rogers hand-delivered them. The John P. Community Care Clinic in Albemarle received face shields, as did Novant Health of Landmark, MD; Community Free Clinic of Concord; the Richfield-Misenheimer Fire Dept.; and Stanly County EMS. Also receiving shields were Northeast Cabarrus VFD and Midland Fire and Rescue.
Kathy’s Customs is run by Matthew Wykoff and his wife, Kathleen. Matthew Wykoff also works as a Technology Education, Project Lead the Way Engineering Teacher at Olympic High School in Charlotte. He said that his students have been contributing their ideas and feedback about the face shields on a blog.
Ultimately, he’d like to work with local manufacturers to produce many more face shields than Kathy’s Customs can. At the time that Kathy’s Customs made the face shields that Pfeiffer’s PA students distributed, the company only had enough materials on hand to make between 300 and 400 shields.
The distribution by Pfeiffer’s PA students of the face shields highlights an “exploratory” study by Kathy’s Customs to get feedback from people wearing the shields, so that appropriate adjustments to them can be made. Rigorous testing of the face shields would follow, as would attempts to gain approval of the FDA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Ken Keuffel, who authored this article, has served as Pfeiffer’s Assistant Director of Communications since December 2019. He welcomes story ideas from Pfeiffer’s faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends. The form for submitting story ideas is at www.pfeiffer.edu/newsform.