In true Gator fashion, students, faculty and staff showed up in force to fight the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic together and to help their community with everything from coronavirus testing and child care to donating supplies and spreading cheer.
It takes a village
When UF College of Medicine students paused their clinical rotations amid COVID-19 concerns, many volunteered to serve more vulnerable members of the population by helping with screenings in The Villages®, a Central Florida retirement community that is home to 130,000 residents. In March, 120 medical and physician assistant students were trained in the appropriate use of personal protective equipment and deployed to assist the health care professionals administering tests. Michael Lauzardo, MD ’91, deputy director of the UF Emerging Pathogens Institute and an associate professor in the division of infectious diseases and global medicine, oversaw the project.
Caring for the community
A team of UF College of Medicine students, faculty and staff are working to help protect one of Gainesville’s most underserved and medically vulnerable communities from COVID-19. Led by Grant Harrell, MD ’10, the UF Mobile Outreach Clinic’s medical director and an assistant professor in the department of community health and family medicine, the team spent three days conducting screening and testing for 145 individuals at GRACE Marketplace, which provides shelter, services and permanent housing solutions for Gainesville’s homeless population.
Connecting the dots
PhD students in the department of epidemiology at UF Health are among a group of 30 UF faculty and students who answered the call when Florida needed to drastically boost the number of epidemiologists working with health departments around the state. Their work entails contact tracing and identifying patterns that could help explain how the disease is spreading. The students, who continue to juggle their normal course loads with their new volunteer responsibilities, have been deployed throughout the state, from Broward County to Osceola County.
Gators helping Gators
Researchers spanning UF and UF Health’s many scientific disciplines donated personal protective equipment by the pallet and truckload to build upon existing stockpiles in support of clinical colleagues treating COVID-19 patients. Laboratory teams gathered masks, face shields, gloves, gowns, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer and more to help ensure that UF’s health care professionals have the equipment they need to stay safe and provide the best possible care to patients in the face of global shortages of protective gear.
Together while apart
In the midst of the pandemic, UF medical students joined colleagues with expertise in business and media to design an app to bring people together — virtually. The 6ftCloser app, which launched April 11 with the help of first-year medical students Jesse Caron, Samantha Korn, Emily Loe and Kathryn Thompson, asks users practicing social distancing at home to record short thank-you videos that are shared with those working on the front lines of the pandemic. Five days after the launch, 500 videos were shared with essential workers nationwide, from doctors and nurses to administrative personnel and kitchen staff.
In appreciation for hospital staff working tirelessly to care for patients, UF College of Medicine students stepped up to help by establishing Gator Sitters, an initiative that pairs volunteers with UF Health staff who need assistance with child care, pet care and other household duties like meal preparation and grocery shopping. Emily Edwards and Christine Rodhouse, medical students from the class of 2021, organized the venture and are working with a team of fellow medical students, physician assistant students and students from other UF graduate programs.