As an emergency physician faced with the rapidly-spreading coronavirus and dwindling supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), Dr. Megan Ranney who is co-founder of Get Us PPE and Medical Analyst for CNN, rapidly built a grassroots, volunteer-led movement that has delivered millions of PPE units to those who need it most.
Get Us PPE co-founder profiles document the origin stories of Get Us PPE.
- What compelled these ER physicians to take what little spare time they had to strategize and mobilize, to help fix the big-picture crisis of supply shortages?
- How did Get Us PPE step in to help solve the issues leaving frontline workers without adequate protection to keep them safe—like N95 masks, nitrile gloves and disinfecting wipes?
Dr. Megan Ranney on events leading to her becoming co-founder of Get Us PPE
Early on, I and other healthcare leaders began to sound the alarm bells that we would run out of PPE. We saw healthcare workers being disproportionately infected by the virus in other countries.
We knew that our country did not have adequate supplies to be able to protect all of its healthcare workers from the impending pandemic.
Starting in February, we wrote editorial for medical journals like Health Affairs and the New England Journal of Medicine; we started the hashtag #GetMePPE that went viral; we created a petition for the federal government; we talked to insiders in the White House, and we went on national media to talk about the lack of adequate supplies.
But no one listened.
After I appeared on Inside Politics with John King in mid-March, I was deluged with offers for donations for my hospital. Although these offers were lovely, and much appreciated, they felt unfair: why should my hospital be protected, just because I happened to have a national voice?
As a public health researcher committed to equity—and as an emergency physician who cares about my healthcare colleagues across the country—I was determined to find a way to do better, for all.
It was in this context that Dr. Ali Raja and Dr. Shuhan He reached out with their ideas for a website to match donations to healthcare providers in real-time. It made perfect sense, and was just what we needed.
With over 17,000 registered requests for personal protective equipment, Get Us PPE has amassed the largest non-governmental database of PPE shortages in the United States.
Now, with an organization 200-some volunteers strong, Get Us PPE is tackling issues related to the unrelenting PPE crisis — still, the rate and way the coronavirus spreads cause physicians like Megan to worry.
Megan on Misinformation
This virus doesn’t care about our politics, our geography, or our belief systems. It works like a virus does: when given the opportunity, it infects.
As a physician, I see the consequences of those infections every day. And I see the consequences of the misinformation, whether within government (driving political leaders to make nonsensical decisions) or within individual communities (when people choose to ignore guidelines on social distancing and masks).
What keeps me up [at night], therefore, is the question of “how do we cut through, to get Americans to understand both how dangerous this is, and to motivate both average Americans and government leaders to take action?
My biggest concern is that people continue to misunderstand how this virus is transmitted. All the other problems derive from this first issue.
To me, PPE is a critical part of a rational, effective solution. But the continued lack of PPE, and the continued resistance to mask-wearing, are a sign of the larger issue of misinformation.
If we understand that someone can be without symptoms, and still be infectious; and if we understand that even our closest friends could be infected; and if we understand that any time we are within 6 feet of someone who is infected, ESPECIALLY if we are unmasked, we are at risk—then we can successfully engage in all the necessary mitigation steps.
The other area of concern is the effect of this virus on healthcare workers and the healthcare system.
I sometimes joke that the pandemic has “pulled the bandaids off” of the wounds of our system—but that isn’t a joke. I worry that this virus is going to not just pull off the bandaids, but actively worsen our sores. We were already burned out and working on the edges. This pandemic could destroy the little bit of extra capacity our healthcare system had for our patients—and it is going to destroy many of my colleagues.
As the coronavirus has gripped the US, early on, it became clear that the virus was spreading disproportionately among Black and Latino communities, as is the case with many other chronic health conditions that are underpinned by structural inequalities.
Equity is a crucial pillar of the Get Us PPE vision. The vision is to provide PPE at no cost to underserved and under-resourced communities and use innovative data technology to prioritize and distribute PPE for those most in danger of contracting and dying from COVID-19.
Megan on Health Equity
We need to be honest about the structural issues that are driving the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black and brown communities.
We also need to be intentional about not speaking on behalf of others. I am a White woman in the Northeast; it would be inappropriate and harmful for me to try to lead solutions on behalf of Latinx families in Chicago, or Black healthcare workers in the South. I can amplify and elevate community-driven solutions.
I think that only once we acknowledge the harm that has been wrought—and show that we are willing to put the money, time, and leadership opportunities that are needed, behind the response—can we make sure that our response is truly equitable.
With the COVID pandemic now in its third wave, Americans still have not adopted all the new ways of life like: wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth, maintain a physical distance of six feet from others, use outdoor spaces whenever possible—misinformation still runs rife, with individual choices threatening the collective progress we’ve made against the virus.
Get Us PPE co-founder Megan Ranney knew she had to do something to help… and you can help too!
If you have funds to donate, a $5 donation can buy an N95 mask for a healthcare worker trying to survive the PPE shortages.
Are you in need of personal protective equipment?
If you are a healthcare worker or frontline worker in need of PPE, submit a confidential request. Get Us PPE will try to match you with donations as soon as possible.