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We’ve got your back! Wharton Students Launch Initiative for Healthcare Workers

We’ve got your back! Wharton Students Launch Initiative for Healthcare Workers

Dr. Ding's work with The First Wave is the subject of our book Tickle Trouble, available for preorder now!

Hello everyone! Hope you’re healthy and safe. 

Today, we’re interviewing Dr. Alexander Ding, the Chief of Radiology and Medical Director of Imaging at a Sutter Hospital in Northern California. I heard him and some other Wharton students are teaming up to collect donations for healthcare workers, let’s hear what he has to say.

Spiffy: Dr. Alex, thank you for speaking to us. Could you tell us more about the initiative that the Wharton student community has undertaken to help the fight against COVID-19? 

Dr. Alex: Thanks for this interview, Spiffy! This is an initiative started by the Wharton student community to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health care workers. Our doctors, nurses, technologists, environmental services, EVERYONE helping to take care of patients don’t have the necessary masks, face shields, gowns, or gloves to do their jobs safely. This is completely unacceptable. 

Spiffy: Oh, I agree! How’d it get started?

Dr. Alex: This initiative was started when I asked my Wharton classmates in Silicon Valley if they knew of any tech companies that have Cleanrooms. I was seeking alternative sources of PPE from other industries given the shortage of medical-grade products. This raised similar concerns from other classmates in healthcare.  My classmates were concerned and appalled, they sprung into action and this initiative was started!

Spiffy: That’s such a noble initiative, Dr. Alex! How did the Wharton community help make this initiative happen? 

Dr. Alex: This initiative and the response to this initiative has really shown me the power of communities and networks, particularly Wharton.  Soon after publishing our GoFundMe initiative online, we’ve seen tremendous response from near and far reaches of our community.  We’re getting donations and support from classmates, Wharton faculty and staff, and loved ones throughout the country. It’s even made it to secondary and tertiary networks. 

Dr. Alex Ding

I was particularly impressed to see its reach when through friends of friends of friends this campaign came back to me via one of my physician colleagues asking if this was a picture of me on the link.  This outpouring of support has been very heartening to see in this time of anxiety and fear not just amongst the public, but particularly with our healthcare community.

Spiffy: It’s indeed very heartening! What has the initiative's impact been so far?

Dr. Alex: I’ve been so impressed and touched by the support we’ve seen.  In just 48 hours we raised $20,000 and we’re currently at about $25,000 in donations. We’ve matched the campaign goals several times over.  

We’ve started to deploy some of these funds already and delivered masks to hospitals in the hardest-hit areas in California, including Los Angeles and San Francisco.  Several more orders are en route to California, Texas, and New York. Currently, our network has 27,000+ masks either delivered or en route.  We have an amazing team of classmates working around the clock and behind the scenes establishing international distribution mechanisms and logistics for procurement. This amount of donation is allowing us to take advantage of economies of scale and get good pricing on the equipment.

Spiffy: Hats off to all of you! Is there any way our readers can help?

Dr. Alex: Thank you for asking that. 

Certainly, I think everyone should check out our GoFundMe donation site! We’d appreciate any support that your readers might provide. 

If you have any supplies on hand, even non-medical grade, such as construction N95 masks, most hospitals would gladly take these. Every hospital has its own process for dealing with donations, so please check with them.  

There might be an opportunity for some innovation and creativity as well to address the PPE shortage, including 3D printing or sewing of masks or new procedures for re-processing and re-use of PPE. I'd love to see some ingenuity come from some non-traditional places outside of healthcare to help us meet this moment.

Spiffy: I’ll be sure to spread the word around the planet, Dr. Alex! All of you have filled us with hope! I am curious to know what gives you hope?

Dr. Alex: I grew up in Europe and when I was a young child the Chernobyl disaster occurred.  Because there were nuclear fallout concerns where I lived, I remember being sequestered indoors for what seemed like weeks and we were instructed not to eat organic foods, like fruits and vegetables.  I didn't really comprehend what was happening, but I knew it was something serious and bad. I suspect my kids are feeling the same things right now. However, I remember neighbors checking on each other, and there was community, and we all made it through that difficult time. Thinking about that gives me hope that we will show kindness and respect to our neighbors during this difficult time and that we will see our way of this crisis together.

Spiffy: I'm sure we will! Well, one last question before we let you go. How can all of us help without compromising on social distancing?

Dr. Alex: Social distancing doesn’t mean social disengagement. As my classmates have shown, that even though we are all practicing social distancing and sheltering at home, that doesn’t mean we can’t do things to take care of each other during these very trying times. Call your parents and check on them. Make sure your elderly neighbors have some groceries left on their doorsteps. Help watch a healthcare worker’s child while they have to work a shift.  Buy some online gift cards from your local stores and restaurants. Or help us find more PPE!

Spiffy: Well, count me in for sure! I’m gonna go search for more PPE right away!


Dr. Alexander Ding is a Harvard and UCSF-trained board-certified physician specializing in medical imaging and minimally-invasive image-guided surgeries.  He is currently the Chief of Radiology and Medical Director of Imaging at a Sutter Hospital in Northern California and was previously the Vice Chief of Staff of a County Medical Center. In addition to holding a graduate degree in public health, he is now completing an MBA at Wharton.  He is a member of the American Medical Association's Council on Science and Public Health and was previously a member of its Board of Trustees.  

(Blog Credits: Shreyas Navare. Edited by Elias Ross Trupin)
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