BIDMC CVI Scientist Facilitates PPE Donation

Generous Donations of Essential Equipment

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge our medical system, inspiring stories of ingenuity and generosity are emerging from throughout BIDMC. In the CardioVascular Institute, for example, one laboratory scientist's efforts to help his clinical colleagues have developed into the widespread distribution of critically important personal protective equipment (PPE).

BIDMC CardioVascular Institute Staff with PPE Donors
From left: BIDMC staff, Eleanor Shi; Xu Shi, PhD; Peter Zimetbaum, MD; and Robert Gerszten, MD; with our generous donors, Hong Yu; Wenhui Zhou; Christopher Zhang; and Yinhang Zhang.

Together We Win

As a senior research associate conducting proteomics and metabolomics analyses in the laboratory of Cardiovascular Medicine Chief Robert Gerszten, MD, BIDMC scientist Xu Shi, PhD, has always taken a collaborative and multidisciplinary approach to his work.

He's now applied that same approach to helping medical staff at BIDMC during the COVID-19 pandemic — in an extraordinary way.

In just over a month, Shi has coordinated a massive effort to collect and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) to the clinical staff of BIDMC and other hospitals throughout Massachusetts, New England and beyond. What began with a quick message to associates and friends requesting donations of face masks has catapulted into an international effort that has resulted in donations of more than 100,000 pieces of critically important PPE to support BIDMC's front-line medical staff, and others. "Xu understands that PPE is a vital resource, and was instrumental in soliciting donations from a vast network," says Gerszten. "We are grateful for this tremendous contribution from him personally as well as from his colleagues, all of which will play a part in keeping our staff safe during this crisis."

Modest Beginnings

On the morning of March 19, Shi and his colleagues learned that laboratories throughout BIDMC would be temporarily closed to help prevent the spread of the virus. Shi quickly shifted gears.

"When I received the email that our lab would be shutting down temporarily, I realized I needed to do something to help my colleagues," says Shi, a native of China and graduate of Tongji Medical College in Wuhan.

Shi reached out to his fellow lab member Debby Ngo, MD, who is also a pulmonologist in BIDMC's division of Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine to ask if there was anything she needed. When he heard there was a shortage of personal protective equipment, Shi jumped into action.

"I first sent a message to my Chinese friends in Belmont, Mass., where I live," say Shi. The response was almost instantaneous. "Within minutes, I had promises of more than 100 masks." For the next two hours, Shi drove from house to house collecting masks, all the while continuing to monitor the non-stop texts and messages he was receiving from friends and associates.

BIDMC's CardioVascular Institute receives generous PPE donation.By 2:00 pm, he had arrived at the Rosenberg Building on BIDMC's West Campus — with over 1,000 masks. "The response I got from the medical staff was amazing," says Shi. "One of the most meaningful comments I heard was 'by saving medical professionals we are saving ourselves.' I was so happy for my friends' generous support."

But that was only the beginning. In the following days, Shi's journey continued around the Greater Boston area. His support also extended beyond BIDMC, with deliveries made to other Boston-area hospitals and healthcare providers. The unwavering efforts of Shi and his colleagues have continued almost nonstop throughout March and April.

An International Effort: "Together We All Win!"

Working together with Dr. Gerszten and Yan Hao, MHA, MEd, Supply Chain Manager, Dr. Shi became aware that PPE needs continued to grow at BIDMC. But also growing was the generosity of donors.

So he took to social media and reached out to a number of his contacts in both the United States and in his native China. Over the next several weeks, he was welcomed with donations from the alumni associations of his alma maters, including Huanggang Middle School and Huanggang High School, as well as Tongji Medical College.

As of April 18, Shi's PPE collection totaled more than 100,000 pieces, including 77,000 PPE from the organizations in China, valued at approximately $130,000. When the recent shipment of medical-grade, N95, KN95 and surgical masks from the donors in Huanggang and from the Hofan Group in China were delivered, Shi was overwhelmed with gratitude.

"We are so grateful to all of our many, many supporters," says Shi. "Our contributors came from near and far and showed that, together, we all win! Let's remember all of these generous people and organizations."

  • Huanggang Middle School Overseas Alumni Association (USA)
  • Huanggang High School Alumni Association (China)
  • Hofan Group (Shenzhen, China)
  • Tongji Medical College Overseas Alumni Association (USA)
  • Huazhong University of Science and Technology Alumni Association (China)
  • Wuhan Frontline Healthcare Professionals (China)
  • Chinese Engineers and Scientists in Kendall Area (USA)
  • Tsu Chi USA
  • Belmont (MA) Chinese American Association
  • WeStar Alliance (USA)
  • Hubei Returned Scholars Association (China)
  • Shandong Association of Massachusetts
  • Post Wave Publishing (China)
  • More than 100 individual donors from throughout the Greater Boston area

Click here to learn more about supply and equipment donations.