HU’s Efforts

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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we knew it for nearly everyone.

And as the outbreak remains fluid, new challenges are constantly on the horizon.

Despite this, Harrisburg University immediately knew it was poised to use its resources to help contribute to the global effort against the outbreak.

From harnessing the University’s 3D printers to produce free face shields for healthcare professionals and others working on the frontlines, to conducting research, lending expertise, facilities, and more, Harrisburg University remains committed to helping when and where it can to help respond to the unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

Below you will find a description of the growing number of efforts Harrisburg University has launched to contribute to the Covid-19 response:

 

3D Face Shield Donations

Harrisburg University’s Advanced Manufacturing faculty and students have delivered more than 1,200 protective face shields to long-term care workers, dental professionals, and others on the frontlines of the COVID-19 epidemic.

Since April, HU Advanced Manufacturing Program lead, Dr. Charles (Chip) A. Shearrow, and students have harnessed one of the university’s 3D printers to produce batches of face shields. And they have teamed with the Pennsylvania Health Care Association and other organizations to provide long-term care workers with the 3D-printed face shields amidst a statewide shortage of personal protective equipment.

HU has provided the face shields to those who need them most free of charge.

“At a time when our Department of Health is recommending universal, around-the-clock masking for health care providers, the supply of masks and face shields is running dangerously low,” said Zach Shamberg, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association. “But this partnership shows the true power of collaboration and innovation. Harrisburg University is taking an important and much-needed step to support our region’s caregivers in long-term care facilities who are risking it all to care for Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable residents. We cannot thank the university enough.” 

HU professor helps fight COVID-19

Dr. Erik Hefti, Harrisburg University Pharmaceutical Sciences program Executive Director, is helping fight the coronavirus at the COVID-19 Treatment facility at Sisters of Charity Hospital, St. Josephs Campus, in Buffalo, New York.

The Sisters of Charity Hospital was converted to only treat patients with confirmed COVID-19, requiring hospitalization. There are no walk-ins, only patients admitted by a physician with a confirmed diagnoses. This treatment center serves the Western, New York area (Erie and Niagara region).

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Hefti is a clinical pharmacist at the COVID-19 treatment center, which was Hefti’s former clinical practice site. Patients with COVID-19 may require a diverse array of medications.  Hefti is responsible, (along with fellow pharmacists, interns, and pharmacy technicians) for getting the correct drug to the patients. He is responsible for minimizing the risk of drug-drug interactions and other adverse drug reactions.

He also is responsible for compounding some of the drugs that are being used to treat COVID-19 and providing pharmacotherapeutic expertise to other members of the healthcare team. The pharmacy department as a whole assists in acquiring specialty and experimental therapies for COVID-19. The pharmacy department is also available to assist with ongoing clinical trials for COVID-19 therapies as needed.

Building COVID-19 Data Infrastructure

Because COVID-19 is a novel virus, there is a critical need to create information systems to house the data being collected.

HU Computer and Information Sciences graduate students are working with health institutions to analyze COVID-19 data. Many of the COVID-19 taskforces, state and federal, clearly state that mining Coronavirus data is the key to combating the virus.

Data mining information produced by HU CISC graduate students will add to the understanding of the virus’ behavior and spread. The HU Computer Science Program is stepping up to the challenge with two student research groups: Data Mining (520DME) and Big Data Architectures (525BDA). Students aide in building data infrastructures and in the development of efficient algorithms to discover these hidden patterns.

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The students are optimistic their work will lead to approaches that slow or stop the spread of the virus, said CISC Professor Ron Jones. The students’ efforts are implemented through course projects that are under the direction of their course instructors.

Additionally, a group of the HU CISC program researchers are involved with mentoring and advising the students. The students are supported by the HU CISC High Performance Computing Research Laboratory.

Students are building infrastructure to house massive volumes of information. That data will help healthcare workers and government officials working to defeat the virus, and deal with the economic and societal damage it has caused, he said.

Detecting COVID-19

Harrisburg University is working with Capital Region Water as it tests sewage to help determine COVID-19 cases throughout Dauphin County.

Capital Region Water is one of 400 collection/treatment systems across the U.S. that is testing sewage to collect data that may help identify hotspots for the disease.

HU is helping analyze the data, which could help provide a true case scenario throughout Dauphin County.

The virus can be detected in human waste and that includes those who may have contracted the coronavirus but didn’t show any symptoms. The first two samples from Dauphin County in May indicated infection rates of 4.5% and 5.6% — ten times higher than those being reported by the state.

The data collected could help identify hotspots for the disease.

Mitigating COVID-19 Impact

Geoffrey Roche, Harrisburg University Director of Strategic Healthcare Initiatives, was selected to serve on the Health Equity Task Force of the National Infrastructure for Mitigating the Impact of COVID-19 within Racial and Ethnic Minority Communities (NIMIC) initiative.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health selected the Morehouse School of Medicine as an awardee for a new $40 million initiative to fight COVID-19 in racial and ethnic minority, rural, and socially vulnerable communities. The initiative is made possible by a partnership between Morehouse’s Satcher Health Leadership Institute and the CDC Foundation.

Dr. Daniel Dawes, Director of the Health Equity Task Force, invited Roche to serve on the task force. The group’s work that began virtually in July.

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The initiative is a three-year project designed to work with community-based organizations across the nation to deliver education and information on resources to help fight the pandemic. The information network will strengthen efforts to link communities to COVID-19 testing, healthcare and social services and to best share and implement effective response, recovery and resilience strategies.

A champion of the community, Roche has volunteered and has been appointed to serve on numerous Committees and Taskforces during these difficult times.

Equitable Response Team

A group of Harrisburg University professors and staff have joined the state Department of Health’s COVID-19 Health Equity Response Team to help provide care and strategies aimed at protecting those most at risk of succumbing to COVID-19.

Geoffrey M. Roche, HU Executive Director of Strategic Healthcare Initiatives, will chair a committee responsible for implementing six core strategies for residents who are over the age of 65. Professors Michael Seavers, Roozbeh Sadeghian, and Nathanial Ashby are also involved.

Dr. Nancy Mimm, who heads the University’s Master of Nursing Degree program, will chair a committee that will implement the same six strategies aimed at protecting pregnant women.  Dr. Tamara Peyton, Social Computing & HCID Graduate program lead, also will serve on this committee.

Helping Students

Harrisburg University partnered with the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank to make sure students living in dorms during the COVID-19 campus closure received meals they needed throughout the remainder of the spring semester.

Brian Humphrey, HU Manager of University and Community Partnerships, helped secure a truckload of food donated from the food bank. Staff and student volunteers helped unload the food bank truck and put together meal boxes for the roughly 130 students who remained in their dorms as they finished the semester online. The university moved all undergraduate and graduate courses online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The food bank donated more than 5,000 pounds of food to our students. The donation lasted the students, most of whom have full kitchens in their apartment-style dorms, throughout the remainder of the semester.