Coronavirus

Philly Health-Care Students Are Gathering PPE for Local Medical Workers

Founded by health-care students from Jefferson and Temple, PPE2PHL helps protect frontline workers.


PPE2PHL, founded by Philly healthcare students, donates personal protective equipment to local hospitals and health centers. / Photograph courtesy of PPE2PHL.

Every day, healthcare professionals put their own safety on the line in order to treat patients. Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, though, the risks that come with the job have exponentially increased, primarily due to shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Because of the rising demand, some PPE distributors are allocating certain types of PPE to healthcare organizations, resulting in a lack of proper medical masks, eye gear, gowns, and gloves for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare staff.

To help mitigate this issue, a group of local healthcare students created an initiative to collect PPE for Philly frontline workers. Launched on March 24th, PPE2PHL relies on PPE donations from local businesses, and — with the help of nearly 200 volunteers — collects those donations via a no-contact courier service. The supplies are dropped off at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, who then distributes the PPE to area hospitals, clinics, and health centers.

In addition to providing protective equipment, PPE2PHL seeks to help community members learn how to make their own face masks to wear when going outside their homes.

The resource — a collaboration with Sew Face Masks Philly — shows you how to make three kinds of cloth face masks with elastic or fabric ties and an optional front pocket to insert filter material. That way, you can help save the medical PPE for healthcare personnel, while still protecting yourself and others while at the grocery store, pharmacy, or outdoor trail.

Executive director Terry Gao and co-founder Juli Debnam getting ready to deliver donated PPE to the Department of Public Health. / Photograph courtesy of PPE2PHL.

PPE2PHL was started by four medical students studying at Jefferson and Temple. Executive director Terry Gao, a fourth-year med student at Jefferson, says they came up with the Philly program after being inspired by a similar one in New York City.

“When [we] found PPE2NYC, I thought, ‘This is a model we could definitely do — and need to do — here in Philly,’” Gao says. So far, their efforts have been successful. As of April 12th, the grassroots program has donated 6,158 surgical masks, 21,000 gloves, 920 respirators, and nearly 800 face shields, plus hundreds of goggles, scrubs, gowns, and shoe covers.

If you’re interested in helping PPE2PHL, you can do so by donating supplies, volunteering as an onboard caller, or contributing to their GoFundMe page. If you are a healthcare worker or center in need of protective equipment, you can request PPE here.

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Philadelphia magazine is one of more than 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and economic mobility in the city. Read all our reporting here.