Dr. Shuhan He is an attending physician in the Emergency Department at Massachusetts General Hospital and co-founder of Get US PPE, a nonprofit that gets personal protective equipment (PPE) to those who need it most. Formed in March 2020, Get Us PPE was founded in response to the emerging PPE shortage that swept through emergency rooms across the nation.
Since its inception, Get Us PPE has donated nearly 7 million PPE units and built the largest non-governmental database of PPE shortages in the country. Employing a data-driven approach that emphasizes efficiency and equity, Get Us PPE is able to reach underserved and vulnerable communities from coast to coast.
Responding to the PPE Surge
Dr. He has been involved in research and advises on health equity issues, working to ensure all facilities in need of gloves and masks have access to them without any obstacles. In collaboration with his colleagues at Get Us PPE, Dr. He co-developed a Fairness Distribution Algorithm, which resulted in a 280% increase per day of donated PPE matched to frontline workers.
Both access to and provision of PPE were major problems when the surge first occurred. Dr. He quickly put his technical skills to use, creating a website that tracked PPE types in need. With a site created and data pouring from across the nation, Get Us PPE began matching donated PPE to frontline workers in need.
I have always been ready to take up a responsibility to help out during a crisis. During the first surge of PPE shortage, I was able to work on my computer to help out as much as I could. Get Us PPE was the perfect avenue that merged my skills: emergency medicine and technology.
In the beginning, rapid actions were needed to streamline PPE across the nation and determine where masks, gloves, and other PPE were needed. I was immediately able to employ a website to track PPE needs and initially list the PPE to track the types that were in dire need.
Equitable Vaccine Distribution
Dr. He’s plan to ensure all Americans are vaccinated is to proactively target underrepresented communities for vaccines while simultaneously setting up distribution centers for urban and rural communities. This plan, Dr. He assures, will target cities, suburban communities, and underserved facilities, like prisons.
This disease has shown how under-represented communities have not received adequate healthcare, be it for vaccines or PPE. I believe that we should focus on vaccinating under-represented communities because COVID is going to persist.
As a matter of public safety, all communities should have equal access to not only PPE, like masks but also vaccines. Seeing the inequity within communities when the PPE shortage first hit is all the more reason to consider these communities and ensure that they have access to vaccines.
In addressing this situation, it is important to consider the speed at which the vaccines should be distributed. All Americans should be able to get vaccinated as soon as possible. I believe that achieving both speed and equity is possible.
“COVID-19 is the disease of inequity.”
Recommendations to Americans as the Vaccines Roll Out
Dr. He echoes the same concern as other healthcare professionals: We need to continue wearing masks even if we receive the vaccine. Though the vaccine may protect individuals from getting seriously ill, it is unknown whether vaccinated people could be silent spreaders of the virus.
Thus, in an abundance of caution, Dr. He, along with his colleagues, recommends that vaccinated individuals continue wearing a mask and practicing social distancing. Adding that, even though the vaccines reflect a light at the end of the tunnel, the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19 has not ended.
It is easy to think that the release of the vaccine can end the pandemic. This process, however, has to take place in small steps. It is important to consider that not everyone has been vaccinated, and due to this, social distancing and wearing masks should be continued.
At this point, I would advocate for a universal mask policy and following social distancing guidelines.
Proper precautions should be continued as the vaccine is still in the process of delivery, and not everyone has access to it. Social distancing guidelines should still be focused on not only protect yourself but everyone around you.
Stopping the Spread of COVID-19
When asked what two policies he’d recommend to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Dr. He advocated for a stronger sick leave policy and a universal mask mandate, noting that many frontline workers at risk for contracting the virus lack enough sick days to comfortably stay home after testing positive for the virus.
Many workers put not only themselves at risk but also risk their families and close ones. However, they are not at liberty to take off work as they are under the threat of losing pay. This is the reason that I think sick-leave policies should be improved and enforced for workers who do not feel comfortable putting their families at risk if they contract the virus.
I believe that an enforceable, universal mask mandate is crucial as well. There are people that do not wear masks regularly, putting people around them at risk.
A universal mask mandate where people would be required to wear masks would solve this issue. While many stores and facilities already initiate a mask policy, a universal mask policy would make it a requirement for all facilities. This simple policy would ensure the well-being and safety of the public.
Dr. He became involved early on and co-founded Get Us PPE along with the other founders to create a national database to track PPE and ensure that all facilities have the PPE they need. As a frontline worker himself, Dr. He stresses the continued use of masks and social distancing to maximize public safety.
Unfortunately, many of the issues that propelled Dr. He and his colleagues to create Get Us PPE, including health inequity and a PPE shortage, persist today.
If you’d like to join our mission to get PPE to those who need it most, consider donating today. A $5 donation can provide a healthcare professional with an N95 mask.Donate to Get Us PPE