Clinical Excellence

Mini-Story: Sentara Martha Jefferson Neurosurgeons Innovate to Save Lives

When the pandemic first began, acquiring adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) became a top priority for hospitals across the country. With supply lines stretched thin and concerns that Sentara Martha Jefferson would be unable to provide enough PPE in the event of a COVID-19 surge, neurosurgeon Jacob Young, MD, began researching new ways to protect frontline responders. Together with two of his fellow neurosurgeons, Osmond Wu, MD, and David Slottje, MD, the threesome met in Dr. Young’s garage after hours to devise a plan to convert a full-face swimming snorkel mask into PPE. The result: a combination face mask and face/eye shield.

“I was inspired by the story of an Italian doctor who, during that country’s COVID-19 surge, converted a snorkel mask to PPE using a 3D printer to mount a viral/bacterial ventilator filter onto the mask,” explains Dr. Young. “Although 3D printing makes beautiful products, the process requires exact measurements—which would be impractical in this case, since every snorkel mask model is different. We had the idea to use moldable thermoplastic and heat-shrink the parts to fit instead, so that virtually any model of snorkel mask could be used.” Dr. Young gives credit for the heat-shrink idea to Graeme Jenvey, husband of Sentara Martha Jefferson Emergency Department nurse Elizabeth Jenvey.

Following their strategy sessions, the team engaged Chip Earl at Dive Connections, who donated snorkel masks for additional experimentation. While the masks never went into inpatient use, the team’s innovative leadership has been exceptional, and a great example of the dedication of Sentara Martha Jefferson physicians and staff. Keep up the great work! 

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