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2020 ORR Community Service Award Winner: Aditi Annu Sharma, MD

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Dr. Sharma is a PGY3, dermatology resident, at the University of California, Irvine. When the shortage of personal protective equipment began to affect the hospitals around the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Aditi became motivated to find a solution that would help the healthcare community. She studied the shortage of equipment and realized that focusing on a solution to create reusable and re-sterilizable masks and face shields would be the most beneficial to healthcare workers. Initially, Aditi worked with engineers from the local community to develop prototype Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) and face shields using 3D printing technology. They focused their efforts on creating a reusable solution for the PAPR consumables such as the face shield and the air filters. Aditi worked with medical students and the school of engineering at UC Irvine to 3D print and assemble over 20,000 face shields that are currently being used by healthcare workers at the hospital.

What impact has Dr. Sharma’s efforts had on the community?

With the face shield solution implemented, she turned her efforts to finding a solution for a reusable filter material. Aditi researched several different options for filter material before landing on the Halyard surgical sterilization wrap as a possible alternative filter material. Interestingly, these surgical sterilization wraps are being thrown away after a single sterilization of surgical instruments. Aditi sent the recycled surgical sterilization wrap, along with other candidates to be tested for filtration efficiency in an independent laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She discovered that the surgical sterilization wraps significantly outperform the cloth masks that have been handed out to health care workers and are almost as good as an N95 mask. This inspired her to create repurposed masks from the recycled surgical sterilization wrap as an alternative for hospitals and the local community. Aditi worked to develop a University of California wide protocol to collect the otherwise discarded surgical sterilization materials so that they may be used to build masks while simultaneously reducing medical waste. Aditi has recruited several talented community members from different fields to help launch her masking initiative. She reached out to local sewing factories and partnered with OC Cutworks to produce 10,000 masks made from the surgical sterilization wrap to provide a mask for every worker at the hospital from custodial services, to cafeteria workers to healthcare workers. Furthermore, she worked with medical students and the school of engineering to efficiently manufacture stainless steel nose pieces for the masks. Even more remarkable, is that her innovative spirit has inspired many members from the community to donate their time and resources to provide help with the initiative to better protect health care workers. In order to scale her project to the community and beyond, Aditi is now partnering with Sewing for Lives, a nonprofit sewing organization located all over the United States. This has allowed other hospitals to send their recycled surgical sterilization wrap to nearby sewers to create more masks. UCLA, UCSF and Cleveland Clinic have shown interest in partnering with her on this project to adopt a similar model. This project is truly innovative on multiple levels. It has made a positive environmental and public health impact in a very short time, while also engaging community partners. Aditi has truly demonstrated her dedication to the public health of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of her tremendous community effort, she has been featured in the Los Angeles Times and the Orange County Register.

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