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UMass Medical School partners to send Ebola relief to Liberia

Office of Global Health and partners getting urgently needed medical equipment to health care providers

With deep ties to Liberia and its health care system, members of the UMass Medical School and UMass Memorial Health Care community are saddened by the effects of the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, including the loss of colleagues and friends. Driven to help, they have mobilized a broad coalition of partners to collect and ship life-saving protective medical equipment to health care partners in Liberia.

“We want to help those who are there doing what they can. A lot of people who have died are health care workers who are our partners and friends,” said nurse practitioner Donna Gallagher, MSN, MA, instructor in family medicine & community health and nursing and co-director of the UMMS Office of Global Health, which is coordinating the initiative.

“If we can get health professionals what they need quickly, then maybe patients who are dying of the disease can get care, and those who are providing the care won’t be dying.”

This week, the UMMS Office of Global Health is shipping personal protective equipment, thanks to the contributions of numerous local organizations.

An online fundraising campaign led by pediatrician Patricia McQuilkin, MD, clinical associate professor of pediatrics at UMMS, and Michelle Niescierenko, MD, an emergency medicine specialist at Boston Children's Hospital, has raised almost $40,000 for relief efforts. UMass Memorial Health Care, the medical school’s clinical partner, has secured donations of personal protective equipment including exam gloves, shoe covers, respirators, full-face shields, caps, impervious gowns and safety goggles, all essential to halt transmission of the deadly virus. Weighing more than 2,500 pounds, the donations fill nine shipping pallets and are valued at more than $12,000. The UMMS Office of Global Health has coordinated logistics for shipment of these much-needed items to the Liberian Ministry of Health.

Gallagher has made many trips to Liberia, as UMMS faculty are at the forefront of the medical school’s commitment, now in its eighth year, to help rebuild Liberia’s medical infrastructure after the devastation wreaked by years of civil war. These efforts are supported by funding and other types of assistance from agencies that include Higher Education for Development, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Health Education and Relief Through Teaching (HEARTT).

The Office of Global Health is optimizing the available resources by acting as a central clearinghouse for their collection and distribution. “This is a very coordinated effort,” said Deborah Noble, global health project coordinator. “The OGH’s role is to be a central point of contact to facilitate our associates’ humanitarian efforts to get much-needed aid to Liberia.”

“We are grateful to the many institutions and individuals, including UMass Memorial, the Academic Collaborative to Support Medical Education in Liberia, HEARTT, USAID, the Liberian Embassy, and many Liberian communities across the U.S., that have partnered with us on this effort,” said Katherine Luzuriaga, MD, professor of pediatrics and molecular medicine, vice provost for clinical and translational research and director of the Office of Global Health.

“Our hope is that the donated items will bolster the Liberian Ministry of Health’s efforts to contain this unprecedented epidemic and keep our colleagues safe as they deliver care.”

Monetary contributions can be made online to the UMass Medicine Development Office—select ‘other’ from the pull down menu and enter Liberia Ebola Relief Fund—or to the Save Health Care Worker Lives: Fight against Ebola online crowd funding campaign. Those wishing to make in-kind donations of supplies can contact Noble at 508-856-2840 or to arrange for local pick-up and shipment to Liberia. 

Learn more about the Liberia Ebola relief initiative from Gallagher in the video above, and see news media coverage of this week’s shipment below.

WCVB TV5 Boston UMass Medical sends supplies to fight Ebola in Africa Worcester's UMass Medical School sending 2,500 pounds of medical supplies to Liberia for Ebola relief

NECN Hospital Sending Medical Supplies to Liberia to Combat Ebola


Related links on UMassMedNow:

Gilroy teaches anatomy in Liberia: Working in brand new lab at the A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine
UMMS faculty form strong bonds with Liberia
Library projects lending order to chaos in Liberia
Medical School team rebuilding health care in Liberia