BME Volunteers Join CRAC Teams in the Fight Against COVID-19

Aug 26 2020 | By Alexis Newman

Columbia BME Volunteers (from top left): Pamela Graney, Jaeseung Hahn, Kay Igwe, Kacey Ronaldson-Bouchard, Chirag Sachar, Sebastian Theilenberg

Volunteering gave me a sense of purpose during an unpredictable time, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with CRAC and help my community. I’m proud to be a New Yorker, and honored to work at Columbia.

Pamela Graney
Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering

From joining frontline field hospitals to shoring up supplies of personal protection equipment, volunteers from the Department of Biomedical Engineering joined with colleagues across the university to help beat back the COVID19 crisis at its height in New York City.

Launched in mid-March, Columbia Researchers Against COVID19 (CRAC Teams) is a volunteer organization of more than 750 Columbia postdocs, graduate students, staff scientists, administrators, and other employees who wished to volunteer their time and effort to help patients, the University, and science in response to an unprecedented emergency. Members of CRAC Teams launched 14 volunteer projects from March through June of this year, including on-site volunteering at four NY Presbyterian Hospitals, processing over 39,000 samples for the COVID19 biobank, providing logistical support for the weekly COVID19 virtual symposium, building the COVID19 Hub database in coordination with EVPR, providing a 24/7 emergency response team for equipment failures at the CUIMC campus, and many others. “What they accomplished was extraordinary and it made a true difference,” said CRAC Teams faculty mentor Kenneth Olive.

Meet some of our volunteers below.

 

 

Pamela Graney

Columbia BME Affiliation: Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering

CRAC Project: Project 11 - NYP Scrubs

What did you do on this project?

“I volunteered over 112 hours at NYP Lower Manhattan Hospital, where CRAC volunteers focused on scrubs distribution. During our shifts, we paired, folded and organized clean scrubs, and restocked scrubs dispensers. We also prepared a master inventory, organized by color, size, and quantity, of hundreds of new scrubs received at LMH.”

Why did you volunteer?

“Volunteering gave me a sense of purpose during an unpredictable time, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with CRAC and help my community. I’m proud to be a New Yorker, and honored to work at Columbia.”

 

Jaeseung Hahn

Columbia BME Affiliation: Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Synthetic Biological Systems Laboratory & Nanotherapeutics and Stem Cell Engineering Lab

CRAC Project: Project 3 - Mask Reutilization

What are you doing on this project?

“I help generate clear, easy to follow, and scientifically sound guidelines for the general public on best practices for use of at-home PPE such as masks, face coverings, face shields, and gloves (effort led by Tiffany Chen, Columbia BME '18). I coordinate communication and outreach efforts to disseminate prepared PPE guidelines through our website and social media accounts with help from talented undergraduate students (Elaine Lee and Lydia Wu, CC '23). See our website and social media accounts below!”

WEARING IS CARING


Why did you volunteer?

“As a biomedical researcher, I couldn't just do nothing in face of the COVID-19 pandemic and all the misinformation about the disease. I wanted to do more than the bare minimum to fight against the pandemic.”

 

Kay Chioma Igwe

Columbia BME Affiliation: Research Assistant for Columbia BME Prof. Barclay Morrison until 2017 (M.S. in Electrical Engineering in 2016; current Research Scientist for Dr. Adam Brickman in Columbia Neurology)

CRAC Project: Project 11 - NYP Scrubs, P16 - Field Hospital

What did you do on this project?

“I helped in the laundry room with folding and organizing scrubs to be distributed to hospital staff.”

Why did you volunteer?

“I wanted to volunteer because I wanted to help in any way I could. I was also very inspired by the efforts of our frontline heroes and wanted to support them in any way possible.”

 

 

Kacey Ronaldson-Bouchard

Columbia BME Affiliation: Class of 2015, PhD; current Associate Research Scientist, Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering

CRAC Project: Project 11 - NYP Scrubs

What did you do on this project?

“I helped with the scheduling and information side of things for Project 11, which was responsible for stocking scrubs. I also helped schedule shifts and figure out logistics for volunteers setting up the Allen Field Hospital, which got up and running pretty quickly thanks to everyone's efforts.”

Why did you volunteer?

“I chose to volunteer because I wanted to help people in any way possible during such a tough time and to also support the NYC community, which I love. I had a new baby at home, so by being a Hospital Manager, I could still help in a small way without going in person, which I really appreciated. Hearing how enthusiastic and determined all the volunteers were, even after their long shifts, was really inspiring and I was really amazed at the effort and teamwork behind the whole initiative.”

 

Chirag Sachar

Columbia BME Affiliation: Expected Class of 2021, PhD

CRAC Project: Project 11 - NYP Scrubs

What did you do on this project?

“I went up to the medical campus and helped procure and distribute body PPE based on what was clean and available. We were onsite to fold and distribute scrubs.”

Why did you volunteer?

“I wanted to volunteer because I knew I had the capacity to help people directly during the pandemic and I wanted to try to.”

 

Sebastian Theilenberg

Columbia BME Affiliation: Postdoctoral Research Scientist, MR SCIENCE Laboratory

CRAC Project: Safety Manager/Project 11 - NYP Scrubs, P16 - Field Hospital

What did you do on this project?

“I joined CRAC relatively early as the safety manager, which at that time meant keeping track of volunteers that worked on site to be able to notify people in case someone developed COVID-related symptoms. Later I also helped starting up sending volunteers into hospitals, where we had to organize a much larger group of volunteers on short notice and find policies to keep them as safe as possible. I covered one of the first hospital shifts folding scrubs, which was a humbling and rewarding experience for me and made me feel sure CRAC volunteers where in fact doing great work in the hospitals.”

Why did you volunteer?

“As a physicist, I'm not immediately involved with any COVID-19 related research, and CRAC gave me the opportunity to immediately make a difference in the heat of the first wave in NYC.”