When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of schools around the world, medical student Deep Patel wanted certainty that he and his classmates could return to the classroom and clinical environments for their final year at Rowan University in Camden, New Jersey. He knew that they’d need essential personal protective equipment (PPE) to make this possible.
Just one problem: There wasn’t enough to go around.
“Without adequate PPE, hand sanitizer and other products, we would not have been able to return students to the classroom,” said Dr. Annette Reboli, Dean Cooper Medical School of Rowan University. “And, not just our school, but medical schools nationally. So the supply chain for PPE are crucial to getting students back in.”
Patel set about designing a face mask that, unlike common N95 respirators, can be sterilized and reused every day. Unbeknownst to him, ExxonMobil innovators were working simultaneously on a similar design that, like Patel’s, included a disposable N95 filter cartridge. The company’s scientists connected with Rowan University and offered their experience, a donation of polypropylene pellets and a deep network of manufacturing relationships to help bring Patel’s idea to life.
In just a few short weeks, this collaboration produced a better face mask, manufactured and assembled at two facilities right in Rowan University’s backyard. By summer, Patel and his classmates safely returned to campus – and the clinical environment – to continue their studies and, ultimately, the fight against COVID-19 and other illnesses.