Published July 22, 2020
Dr. Rita Trofino, Associate Dean, School of Health Sciences and Nursing Department Chairperson at Saint Francis University in Pennsylvania, has been leading a team from the university’s School of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics and the Shields School of Business to mass produce face shields for the healthcare community in the local Loretto, PA region.
See video here.
We asked Dr. Trofino some questions regarding the university’s effort to help the local community.
Please tell us what prompted your school’s efforts to make and distribute face shields.
Starting on April 3, I received several requests from the local hospitals and local nursing homes for donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) items. They requested masks, gowns, gloves, and face shields. The only item we did not have extra to donate were face shields. The General and Environmental Engineering Program faculty contacted me about the possibility of using their 3D printers to make face shields for the healthcare community. They asked how they too could contribute to aid the region’s healthcare workers. With permission from the university and given the variety of 3D printers available on campus, faculty decided to join the community and others in leveraging additive manufacturing (3D printing) for PPE, namely face shields for local healthcare professionals. The School of Business were eager to lend a hand to the process, particularly in supporting the PPE assembly process.
How are the face shields being produced?
The headpiece is printed, and there are a few other parts assembled, like the plastic see-through piece and some foam around the headband. Elastic was donated from the Engineering labs, and other elastic was bought online.
The designs were procured from open-source models, and trial versions of the shields were tested by local healthcare professionals. The effort led to full-scale production of several hundred face shields per week. The team has been building the headpiece with the 3D printers at our school and putting the rest of the shields together with home-based, socially distanced, disinfected assembly strategies. To date, we’ve made approximately 700 shields.
Have you received any funding for the production of the face shields?
Focusing on manufacturing face shields, supplies for the effort were provided via by the university through use of the 3D printers in addition to support from alumni, donors, and faculty. Student and faculty volunteers assisted with shield assembly, the disinfection process, and the coordination and delivery of the face shields. Additionally, Engineering department faculty established a fund on the local Community Foundation to help pay for needed supplies.
Your school has been donating other supplies to local hospitals and other agencies. When did your donation efforts begin?
My husband and I started delivering items on Sunday, April 5. We delivered our donated items for the following two weeks. After that I made at least 10 different weekly trips to several nursing homes and hospitals. The university donated thousands of dollars of items to these healthcare facilities.
What particular challenges will your school be facing when the new semester begins?
The biggest challenges are having enough classroom spaces to social distance and having enough clinical sites that will remain open for our students. Our clinical partners also are asking us to have smaller clinical groups, such as one instructor for every 3-4 students, which has greatly affected our budget.