Chinese, Chinese-American students, parents and alumni donate protective equipment

by Grace Lee | 4/16/20 2:30am

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Source: Courtesy of Paige Xu '21

After hearing in March that COVID-19 had reached Hanover, multiple groups of Chinese and Chinese-American students, parents and alumni have worked to meet the need for personal protective equipment in Hanover. 

As of press time, they have collectively donated 144,000 pieces of PPE to Dartmouth and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, including 141,800 masks, 2,000 pairs of gloves and 200 protective gowns.

“We are tremendously grateful,” College health service director Mark Reed said. “In rough times, it’s wonderful to see people looking out for one another.”

Shudong Jiang, an engineering professor at the Thayer School of Engineering and a Dartmouth parent, said that after learning of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Hanover, members of a WeChat group for parents of Chinese and Chinese-American students immediately began communicating about ways to help.

“We are tremendously grateful. In rough times, it’s wonderful to see people looking out for one another.”

“As parents of Dartmouth students, we are a part of the Dartmouth community,” Jiang said. “If our community has trouble, we should help as much as possible.”

In mid-March, the group created a bank account to collect financial donations from other parents and obtain supplies for DHMC. Jiang said that she communicated with DHMC staff in order to assess their needs.

Reed said there has been a “significant shortage of [PPE]” at DHMC and at Dartmouth.

The parents researched PPE that met the requirements and certifications of U.S. customs, purchased supplies from known suppliers in China and shipped donations directly from China to DHMC, Jiang said. Others collected and managed the donations or kept track of spending.

Three Thayer alumni and parents of incoming ’24s have joined the initiative as well, Jiang said.

“As parents of Dartmouth students, we are a part of the Dartmouth community. If our community has trouble, we should help as much as possible.”

According to Jiang, the group has currently raised over $30,000. On March 27, the first shipment of donations — 200 protective gowns and 4,800 surgical masks — arrived at DHMC. Another 10,000 surgical masks arrived on April 10. Currently, 5,000 surgical KN95 masks and 10,000 general masks are in transit to DHMC and Dartmouth's campus, respectively.

Parents have donated on an individual basis as well, Jiang said. One parent donated 10,000 face masks to the Dartmouth campus and 2,000 surgical masks to DHMC. Another parent donated 2,000 protective gloves to DHMC.

Dartmouth alumni in China have also partaken in a separate initiative to donate equipment to DHMC. Yao Innovations, a health technology company based in Wuhan, China and founded by Peng Yi ’12, donated 50,000 masks to DHMC at the beginning of March.

Yao Innovations employees Dingyang Lu ‘17 and Junfei Yu ’19 traveled to Shanghai to ship 50,000 more masks to Dartmouth's campus this past Friday. According to Lu and Yu, their company has “deep connections with Dartmouth,” and they became “very concerned” when they heard of the outbreak. Since late March, as the situation improved in China, they have been continuously seeking ways to help.

Paige Xu ’21, who has remained on campus this term and is helping connect donors with the College and hospital, said that so far, the donated masks and gowns have been used in the DHMC intensive care unit and by other DHMC health professionals.

She noted that surgical N95 masks are “fanatically sought after by the federal and state government,” but are hard to obtain.

Reed said that the donations received so far have made a “tremendous difference” at DHMC.

Students at Dartmouth have also benefited from the donations. The 184 students remaining on campus each received five general masks to comply with Centers for Disease Control recommendations. These masks are suitable to wear in a public setting.

Yakoob Khan ’21, who has remained on campus this term, said that he was “pleasantly surprised and happy to receive [the masks],” as he was aware of the CDC recommendations but concerned that masks were in low supply.

He added that he was “reassured” to see more students wearing masks around campus since the initiative started.

Reed commended the involvement of Linda Xia ’22 and Xu in the initiative and their work as liaisons between the alumni and parents in China and DHMC and Dartmouth. Xia and Xu, along with Sia Peng ’20, have also been assessing the needs of the Dartmouth and DHMC community, researching certifications for the equipment and connecting other Dartmouth alumni who wish to donate equipment to DHMC staff.

Correction appended (April 16, 2020): A previous version of this article indicated that a group of parents donated N95 masks and noted that Yao Innovations has shipped 50,000 additional masks to DHMC. The article has been updated to reflect that the group donated KN95 masks and that the 50,000 additional masks have been shipped to Dartmouth’s campus rather than the medical center.