Bluefield State College student Syed Monis Ali (foreground) and Elizabeth Walters, BSC Academic Laboratory Instructional Assistant, are pictured as they install filters into N95 replica respirator masks. The masks were produced by BSC through a collaboration involving BSC Academic Schools and Bluefield Regional Medical Center. The masks were presented to BRMC Emergency Management Director Richard Cox on April 23.
It began as an initiative by Bluefield State College faculty and students to collect and distribute Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to several regional health care providers. The project evolved into an ambitious BSC campus collaboration that resulted in the production of vitally needed N95 replica respirator masks, designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles. Richard Cox, Emergency Management Director at Bluefield Regional Center, received the masks on April 22.
“The nationwide increase in demand for N95 masks has created a shortage, and BRMC has been seeking alternative means of securing the masks. These masks match requirements that are critical to ensure safety in a healthcare setting,” Cox said. The masks will be shared by BRMC and PCH, according to Cox.
Last month, Dr. Angela Lambert, Dean of the BSC School of Nursing and Allied Health, was contacted by several clinical affiliates, regarding their pressing need for PPE’s resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. “We are grateful for our clinical partners and wanted to help out in some way,” she explained.
BSC Nursing faculty member Sally Sale and Dr. Lambert collected PPE from the College’s Nursing lab. Dr. James Walters (BSC School of Arts & Sciences) gathered gloves and masks from the College’s School of Arts & Sciences. “BSC provided masks, gowns, gloves, and goggles to Raleigh General Hospital, the Bowers Hospice House, Welch Emergency Hospital, BRMC and PCH,” she added. “The response of health care workers was amazing. Hospital workers were so deeply appreciative that we wanted to do more.”
These donations were the catalyst for BSC’s decision to expand upon its efforts to help the health community. “The need for N95 replica masks grew tremendously during this period. We worked with BRMC and PCH to produce a replica for the masks,” Dr. Lambert said. “With input and assistance from Dr. Walters and Mr. Ronnie White, Interim Director of the Center for Excellence in Manufacturing Engineering at Bluefield State, our first replica mask was produced via the College’s 3D printing capabilities.”
The prototype was tested by a BRMC team, which identified a few improvements needed to ensure the N95 replica mask BSC created would match industry standards.
“Mr. White was determined to incorporate the needed changes in the mask’s design, and we are now assembling masks to share with BRMC and PCH, if needed. The teamwork shown by the BSC Biomedical department, Manufacturing Engineering Technology program represents something of which we are proud,” she summarized. “The health and technology sectors at Bluefield State College are a pillar of strength for the College, the community and the region.
“BRMC and Bluefield State College have established a long, mutually beneficial relationship,” Cox added. “BSC alumni from nursing and radiologic technology are very valued members of our workforce.”