Jeffrey Kysar received an urgent email from NewYork-Presbyterian one recent Thursday.
The hospital needed more face shields. As chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Columbia University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, could he find a way to fast-track the design and production of face shields for healthcare workers treating patients who might have the coronavirus?
“We were astonished that the need would escalate to about 50,000 per day,” says Kysar.
He put out a call. Nearly instantly, engineering school students, staff and faculty began holding virtual meetings to brainstorm and collaborate on designs. Soon, physicians from NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia University Irving Medical Center joined the video calls, giving immediate feedback and suggestions.
“It was all hands on deck,” Kysar says. “I was absolutely bowled over by the response.”
Seventy-two hours later, NewYork-Presbyterian had approved a face shield prototype to begin testing with its healthcare workers. The engineering school, meanwhile, began churning out 1,000 shields a day in its new Makerspace until a larger batch arrived from the manufacturer. The field testing by medical staff was successful, and NewYork-Presbyterian has scaled up the mass production for deliveries of 50,000 per day.
“It’s the collaboration across medicine and engineering that made this happen,” says Dr. Anil Lalwani, who was part of the design process and is medical director of perioperative services at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, and vice chairman of otolaryngology – head & neck surgery and co-director of the cochlear implant program at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. “Engineers are perfectionists. You wouldn’t believe how many millimeters they want to get perfectly right, and the surgeons just want to get it done. So it was a combination of precision and speed that made it possible to come together and execute this in real time.”