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Medical Student-Led Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Donation Drives and Distribution to Hospitals and Clinics

Last Updated: May 20, 2020


Overview: The Stanford Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Donation Drives are an effort to distribute PPE to healthcare workers at the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our goal is to safely collect PPE from the San Mateo and Santa Clara County communities and deliver it to hospitals, clinics, and skilled nursing facilities in need. This effort was inspired by University of California, San Francisco students conducting drives in the San Francisco area and is run by Stanford University medical students across different years as well as graduate students in Stanford Medicine and Stanford Engineering. 

Recruitment: Volunteers for the project were recruited from the Stanford School of Medicine community and broader graduate student body, primarily through student listservs. Volunteers consisted of medical and physician assistant students of all years, as well as graduate students from various departments across campus. Students were asked to sign up for particular roles on an online form. Opportunities for involvement included staffing the PPE drives, delivering collected supplies to institutions in need, and calling local businesses to solicit donations. Volunteers who signed up for in-person tasks were sent specific safety instructions ahead of their shifts to highlight how to maintain proper social distancing from other volunteers and community members donating PPE. 

Promotion: Flyers advertising the date, time, and location of each drive, as well as the supplies being collected, were widely distributed both electronically and physically. The flyers were shared on social media pages run by the Stanford Office of Medical Student Affairs and sent to a variety of listservs across the university campus. Printed flyers were also posted in local grocery stores. To advertise the drives in the larger community, local media outlets, including newspapers, local television stations, and radio stations, were contacted. These media outlets came to the drives and interviewed head organizers as well as volunteers. City communications in local towns, rotary clubs, and churches were also asked to distribute the flyers in their newsletters. We also maintained a relationship with donateppe.org where the hours and locations of our drives were advertised and routinely updated. 

Drive Leader Work Distribution: It was found to be most efficient to designate remote and on-the-ground roles for drive leaders. Those that worked remotely focused on finding and coordinating drive locations, contacting hospitals, securing media promotion opportunities, building promotion through social media, item allocation, and creating any forms or other virtual materials needed for organization. On-the-ground leaders spent their time at the drives setting up and breaking down the area, maintaining and organizing supplies at the storage site, transporting supplies to and from the drives, packing boxes for the hospitals and clinics, and delivery of boxes to their final destinations for donation. 

Location Selection: The PPE drives were held in parking lots of larger grocery stores and shopping centers with approval from the managers of each establishment. Approval was solicited a week in advance from store and shopping center managers, and proper insurance was obtained when applicable. Locations were selected on the basis of visibility, traffic patterns, and distance from one another. Special attention was given to the communities that frequent each location, making sure that a different population would be captured with each location change. The drives were held after business hours on weekdays (3pm - 7pm) and in the morning to the afternoon on weekends (10am - 3pm). It was noted that most of the donations were collected in the afternoon, so for the last weekend of drives hours were adjusted to 12pm - 4pm. 

On-the-Ground Logistics: Volunteers were provided with gloves and surgical masks for their shifts; they were also asked to wear hospital scrubs and maintain a 6-foot radius between each other for social distancing precautions. Any volunteers with fevers, cough, or shortness of breath within the previous two weeks were asked to stay home. Thirty minutes before the start time of the drive, a drive leader would meet the volunteers for set-up. The drive leader would bring bins, signage, chalk, a table, and a tent to set up the donation collection area. After set-up, volunteers were quickly oriented to their tasks for the shift. The drive leader would also quickly check-in with the manager of the store or shopping center if needed. Community members bringing donations were asked to place their supplies on the ground at a safe distance, and volunteers would subsequently move the items into labeled boxes. Alternatively, volunteers could receive items from the trunk of a donor’s car if the donor remained in the car’s cabin. All areas were clearly marked with chalk and signage, and a portion of the volunteers held up signage on nearby roads and intersections to direct community members to the drives and advertise the hours of upcoming collections and the items accepted. Volunteers were also asked to wear their medical or graduate student ID badges, white coats, and scrubs to aid with identification. 

Item Collection: The following items were collected at the drives: masks (N-95, surgical, procedural, or hand-sewn), face shields, goggles or eye shields, isolation or surgical gowns, CAPR/PAPR machines, gloves, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, bleach, thermometers, along with other miscellaneous donations. Both unopened and opened supplies and hand-sewn masks were collected. At the end of each drive, donations were moved to a secure location and remained untouched for 72 hours to allow for decontamination. The 72-hour decontamination period was based on the CDC and WHO descriptions of the persistence of COVID-19 in the environment, as well as the van Doremalen et al. paper from the March 2020 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine outlining similar findings on select surfaces including cardboard, plastic, and steel. 

Calls to Local Businesses: Local businesses potentially in possession of PPE were contacted for donations and assistance with promotion. Businesses included dentists, veterinarians, paint manufacturers and stores, nail salons, MedSpas, tattoo and piercing shops, hardware stores, auto painters, mechanics, construction companies, woodworking shops, schools, semiconductor manufacturers, and fiberglass manufacturers. Pickup times for donations were arranged individually with each business. Alternatively, business owners were invited to come to the drives to drop off donations. 

Donor Follow Up: At the time of donation, donors were directed to an optional online form to provide their personal information and a description of their donated items. This information was used to thank donors, communicate the results and impact of the drives, and provide 501(c)3 write-offs, if possible. 

Distribution: Allocation of donations was based on need at local hospitals and clinics. To determine need, drive leaders contacted local hospitals, communicating with the supply chain for each hospital to determine need. Smaller clinics in the area learned about the drives through the dissemination of the promotion materials. Eventually, an online form was created so that clinics could request items collected at the drive that week as well as provide contact information and drop-off instructions 24 hours prior to delivery. Clinics and hospitals were also asked what type of PPE they were accepting, and a record was kept to ensure donations were allocated appropriately. In particular, certain hospitals and clinics did not accept opened boxes of masks or respirators, while others did not accept handmade masks or other materials. Our team diligently kept an updated list of items each site would accept as these preferences tended to change as CDC guidelines changed. Following the 72-hour decontamination period, donations were repackaged for the appropriate destination, and delivered the following day. Using Onfleet, a last-mile delivery logistics planning platform, who donated access to their premium suite, deliveries were organized into optimal routes based on drop-off location and number of drivers. Drivers included student volunteers as well as drive leaders with access to three large SUVs donated by Stanford Athletics to help with transporting larger batches of supplies. Drivers were sent out on their routes and given directions to destinations sequentially through the Onfleet mobile app. As they approached their destination, the contact provided by the hospital or clinic would be alerted that their driver is approaching, through an anonymous texting relay number through Onfleet. Once a drop off was successful, the driver would indicate that the drop-off was completed on the app and then head to their next destination until their route was completed. Drivers were encouraged to take photos of the hospitals and clinics receiving donations for promotion purposes and requested verbal confirmation that photos could be used online. 

Results and Impact: Over the span of four weeks, hosting drives on nine days at four different locations, the Stanford PPE Donation Drives collected 7,624 N95 respirators, 17,125 surgical masks, 1,330 boxes of gloves, 89 goggles, and 220 surgical gowns, among various other supplies. The items were donated to 7 hospital systems and over 60 clinics, homeless shelters, and first responders throughout the Bay Area. Along with protecting essential healthcare workers, the PPE has allowed clinics to keep their doors open and continue to provide care for homeless and low-income patients, begin or continue COVID-19 screening, and distribute masks to help individuals at shelters comply with CDC guidelines, filling a critical gap in healthcare access for these populations. 

Future Directions: We would like to share our experience and best practices with other students, both graduate and undergraduate, hoping to launch similar initiatives in areas outside the Bay Area. Included is a link to our Google Drive folder with the key documents used to organize the drives and volunteers as well as communicate with hospitals and clinics. As the number of resources in the community decreases, we also plan to transition from holding drives to serving as a collection point and distribution center for PPE donated by the community or produced locally, such as hand-sewn masks and 3D-printed face shields. We believe that our relationships with local hospitals and clinics will allow us to identify institutions with the most need and assist in allocating these supplies throughout the community.


Dasha Savage, Stanford Medical School (dmsavage@stanford.edu)