uOttawa MD students pitch in to help frontline health workers during COVID-19
by Chonglu Huang
uOttawa MD students are reaching out to support health care professionals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, from helping them with child care, groceries and errands outside of work to donating much-needed medical supplies for the frontlines.
Simran Aggarwal (MD 2022) and Heidi Li (MD 2021) have organized an initiative in which local health care workers who need assistance with their groceries, child care, pet care and other errands at home can sign-up to be matched with a helper from the medical students’ group of volunteers.
After seeing similar initiatives led by MD students from Western University and the University of Toronto, students at uOttawa’s Faculty of Medicine wanted to offer their own community in Ottawa the same support.
“We want to spread positivity and help frontline health professionals in whatever way we can,” said Li. “It’s been heartwarming to see us all working together for our community; leaning on each other is how we will get through this.”
Since the start of the initiative last week, 110 health care professionals have signed up, seeking help with various household errands, and so far, about half of them have been matched with a student volunteer. In order to limit social exposure and respect social distancing, the group has chosen to match one student to one family or household.
“Unfortunately, this means limited student availability, but we have now reached out to uOttawa’s nursing students association to recruit more volunteers,” said Aggarwal. “While this is a very distressing and stressful time, we are also seeing the best in people. I am incredibly proud of how, we as Canadians, are helping our communities during this pandemic.”
Meanwhile, a second student-led initiative at the Faculty of Medicine is helping to collect donations of medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospitals, clinics and other frontline point-of-care.
Organized by Kameela Alibhai (MD 2023), Cristina Andronic (MD 2021), Ethan Lin (MD 2021) and Jonathan Whelan (MD 2021), this initiative is mobilizing to reach out to museums, archives, dental offices, veterinary offices, nail salons, construction companies and laboratories that may have PPE and medical supplies available to donate.
"There is a growing shortage of supplies to protect our front-line healthcare workers in hospitals, hospices and swabbing clinics,” said Whelan. “As they prepare to handle an increase in the number of COVID-19-associated illnesses, we have come to realize the importance of community action in this fight. Therefore, we established a community of medical students for local PPE and medical supply sourcing.”
For local groups and businesses who may have medical supplies and protective equipment to donate, please fill out this form to get in touch.
“As medical students, we are privileged to learn from health care professionals and to work alongside them as we train for our future careers,” said Frank Battaglia, fourth-year MD student and emeritus president of the Aesculapian Society, the MD students association at uOttawa.
“Now, with medical students home, away from the clinical setting, we’re looking to support our mentors, educators, and colleagues by providing important supports in their lives as they’re working to curtail this pandemic.”
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