NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) — All it took was an email from a VUMC resident asking how to get the Vanderbilt School of Engineering involved in the coronavirus crisis for the wheels to start turning for Katy Riojas and her peers.

"Vanderbilt is very unique in that engineering and clinicians or surgery is very intertwined and there's a lot of feedback in both directions which makes innovation really fun," says Riojas, a PhD student in the engineering school.
One of the biggest things hospital workers say they're needing are PPEs, or personal protective equipment. "That includes gloves, that includes face shields, that includes masks," says Dr. Robert Labadie.
Because of that, Katy started looking at how she could help, quickly finding something from the University of Wisconsin: face shields. After getting the thumbs up on Saturday, the supplies started coming in between three different households and the process to make shields began.
The shields are being made with adhesive foam weather stripping, transparency sheets or binder covers, and elastic bands. The hope being that healthcare workers who are seeing patients with coughs or other respiratory conditions will have a barrier. "So you can put this shield on when you're intubating someone or you're trying to do something that involves secretions. Clean out their nose, clean out their mouth. So that you don't get those secretions on you," says Dr. Labadie.
And it's not just Katy putting them together. Others like Dr. Duke Herrell and his kids are also helping. Both Labadie and Herrell have been helping gather the supplies to put the shields together.
So far atleast 300 have been assembled and the hope is they'll put together about 3,500 as soon as possible. Katy reminds it's just one PPE among many that are starting to dwindle in most healthcare facilities. "Basically a global shortage yeah, and so they need basically thousands more of everything. And so if we can do anything to try and combat that, we wouldn't send our soldiers in without armor so we want to give the doctors a fighting chance."
Physicians and other staff who need the shields are still wearing N95 masks under as well because the more protection the better. "If the healthcare providers get sick, there are not going to be enough healthcare providers to take care of patients and that's really dangerous," says Dr. Labadie.
Labadie goes on to say, "I've been a physician for 20 years here in Nashville and this is the scaredest that I've been, the scarest that my colleagues have been and I don't think that we're being alarmists, I think we're being realists. And we're really, we're about a week away from Nashville really hitting rock bottom. And if we can keep people healthy, not transmitting the virus, then I think we can get through it but only time will tell."
At this time, neither the engineering students making the masks or the healthcare workers are asking for the public's help in the effort. They still say the best way to help is stay home and help "flatten the curve" of the spread. is now with you on the go! Get the latest news updates and video, 4WARN weather forecast, weather radar, special investigative reports, sports headlines and much more from News4 Nashville.

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