Aaron McEuen, the instructional lab manager of the University of Houston's Burdette Keeland Jr. Design Exploration Lab, examines one of the face shields his lab manufactured for Harris Health System.
Aaron McEuen, the instructional lab manager of the University of Houston's Burdette Keeland Jr. Design Exploration Lab, examines one of the face shields his lab manufactured for Harris Health System.
Innovation

Harris Health System partners with University of Houston to fulfill face shield orders during COVID-19 crisis

After years of collaborating for education and training, UH is manufacturing face shields for Harris Health System frontline workers

Harris Health System partners with University of Houston to fulfill face shield orders during COVID-19 crisis

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In recent weeks, Harris Health System—like so many hospital networks across the globe—has found itself in dire need of supplies for health care staff on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Face shields have emerged as one of the most critical pieces of armor for clinicians, but they are increasingly difficult to acquire because of high demand. Considered among the essentials of personal protective equipment (PPE), each shield is a large sheet of plastic fitted over the face to guard against SARS-CoV-2—the virus which causes COVID-19.

“Face shields are critical for our staff who are working with COVID patients under investigation or COVID-positive patients and they are something we struggled to get from the very beginning of all of this,” said Chris Okezie, vice president of system operations for Harris Health System. “They were immediately back-ordered about a month ago.”

As a result, the hospital system was forced to think beyond their normal suppliers to unlikely sources, Okezie said.

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John Martinez, a Harris Health senior public relations and media relations specialist for corporate communications, suggested reaching out to the University of Houston’s Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design. Might their expertise, he thought, combined with the manufacturing equipment they had on hand help answer the call?

Within a day, Aaron McEuen, who works as the instructional lab manager of the college’s Burdette Keeland Jr. Design Exploration Lab, switched gears from his current projects and designed a prototype for face shields. Now, the college is manufacturing 500 face shields for doctors and nurses at Ben Taub Hospital and Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital. The first deliveries to the Harris Health institutions could happen as soon as this week. More will likely be ordered as the pandemic continues.

“Having a local partner to step up and totally reconfigure their 3D machinery to be able to produce these face shields is phenomenal,” Okezie said, adding that the equipment is designed well and affordable. “We’ve partnered with UH for many years through training and educating students, but never anticipated that one day they would be a supplier of medical supplies.”

The collaboration between UH and Harris Health isn’t the only area partnership producing PPE. Houston Community College has enlisted its army of 3D printers to create brackets for the local production of face shields for other Houston-area hospitals and Prairie View A&M University is also manufacturing PPE to donate to local health care workers.

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