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Finding the silver lining

Health-care workers on the Medical Campus are reminded of the appreciation we all have for them, with signs and notes throughout the medical buildings. (Photo: Matt Miller/School of Medicine)

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has affected us in many different ways, both our department and the Washington University community have found many silver linings in the strength of grassroots efforts, the power of simple acts of kindness, and the resilient spirits of the St. Louis community.

We’d like to take a moment to highlight some of the positivity around us that has lifted our spirits and brightened our days.

China sends several shipments of PPE to department

The CAAWUPC was able to deliver roughly 1,000 N95 masks, 150 goggles, and 3,000 surgical masks, along with a number of isolation gowns.

In mid-March, members of the Chinese Alumni Association of Washington University Pain Center (CAAWUPC) were concerned about the safety of their friends and teachers here in St. Louis and at their alma mater. They heard that our healthcare providers may not have adequate PPE, so the president of the CAAWUPC, Dr. Bifa Fan, asked the association for help in obtaining materials for the department. After many attempts with strict selection, the honorary president of CAAWUPC, Dr. Yongjie Li, was able to locate and secure a large number of high-quality N95 masks in Hong Kong. In addition to the masks, other alumni helped obtain goggles and isolation gowns.

Dr. Swarm and Dr. Yi
Robert Swarm, MD, Chief of Division of Pain Management and Xiaobin Yi, MD, MBA, Vice president of CAAWUPC, Director of Pain Management at Missouri Baptist Medical Center
PPE donation from China
PPE donations from the Chinese Alumni Association of Washington University Pain Center (CAAWUPC).

“Due to a decrease in flights going from China to the USA, it was going to take several weeks to ship the PPE,” said Xiaobin Yi, MD, MBA, Vice president of CAAWUPC, Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Director of Pain Management at Missouri Baptist Medical Center.

“It was because of the association’s prompt efforts that our clinicians were able to obtain and utilize the PPE when it was needed most. For that, we are forever grateful.”

Our sincerest thanks to all members of the association for this generous and encouraging effort, and special thanks to Dr. Yongjie Li and his wife, Dr. Bifa Fan, and members in Beijing, Hunan, and Guangxi who arranged and helped pack and ship the PPE!

Local company makes, donates hand sanitizer to help keep community safe

With his business temporarily shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a local distillery owner decided to use his time and unique resources to produce an essential product for front line workers in the St. Louis community. David Weglarz, owner of StilL 630, makes WHO-recommended formulation hand sanitizer at his distillery.

In addition to donating more than 100 gallons to the COVID-19 ICUs at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, he has provided sanitizer to our department as well as local fire stations and the Deaconess Nurse Ministry. He also sells it to the broader St. Louis community through the StilL 630 website (still630.com).

“When you can do a little bit to help, it makes a bad situation a little more bearable,” Weglarz posted on Facebook. “And we take pride in helping real heroes like the fearless souls in the COVID-19 ICU unit.”

Pi Pizzeria owner helps to feed the front lines

An administrator in the Anesthesiology research divisions worked with Pi Pizzeria in the Central West End to provide personal pan pizza lunches to our front-line clinicians and staff. Thanks to a fundraising effort and special pricing from owner, Chris Sommers, Pi Pizzeria will deliver roughly 350 pizzas over the course of three weeks.

pi pizzeria donation
clinicians sending thanks
pi pizzeria drop off

“This partnership is not only feeding the heroes who are taking care of our community, but it is getting our team back to work.”

“We were able to re-open an entire restaurant because of this effort,” said Sommers. Each time our team returns from dropping off the meals, they are incredibly grateful and invigorated, knowing they are providing a yummy treat to people who are otherwise overwhelmed with work.”

Elementary students send touching letters of encouragement

Students in the first and third-grade classrooms at Mason Ridge Elementary School recently spread strength and encouragement by sending thank-you letters and artwork to local healthcare workers and organizations where some of their parents are employed. The students sent artwork and heartfelt letters of thanks that are now brightening up both our common areas and our days. 

cards and notes of support
clinicians holding letters
clinicians holding letters

It was wonderful to see some of the reactions from our clinicians who said, “Wow, what a great surprise!” and “This truly made my day; it really put a smile on my face!”

Department members continue to encourage one another via support board

We also launched an online platform that gives department members a shared space to post words of support, encouragement, and appreciation during this challenging time. Launched in late March, this board also acts as a place to share resources, opportunities to help, invitations to virtual activities, and other means to assist one another.

washu covid-19 support board

“Over the past month, we have witnessed our department – and the rest of the WashU community – rise to this challenging time through various efforts of volunteerism, collaboration and constructive commentary,” said Ellen Lockhart, professor of Anesthesiology and Vice-Chair for Faculty Affairs.

“It has been inspiring to see such wonderful words of encouragement pour in, and it’s imperative we continue to unite as a community and support one another.”

These examples of kindness, empathy, and support from our St. Louis neighbors and beyond remind us of the strength of our community and provide bright spots in the uncertainty and anxiety caused by this pandemic. Our deepest thanks and appreciation to everyone supporting us and all the healthcare workers around the globe!