Concordia professors are not only rising to the challenge of delivering their courses completely online, they're using their unique skill sets to help battle the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically aiding hospitals and medical clinics close to home.

Several professors in Concordia’s health care disciplines have stepped up to contribute to the health and safety of workers on the front line.

1. They’re donating fresh produce for meals that are being delivered to workers in area hospitals.

On Tuesday, the Concordia Center for Environmental Stewardship donated more than 50 heads of recently harvested lettuce to Healthy Eats for Milwaukee’s Hospital Heroes, an initiative that aims to provide freshly prepared meals once a week to front line workers in the area.

Concordia’s produce supply comes from the new aquaponics system on campus, a self-contained indoor growing system. Concordia is the only university in the state to have an aquaponics system directly on campus.

2. They’re turning personal businesses into shield-making operations.

From preserving wine to preserving lives… One of Concordia’s longtime theology professors, Dr. Harald Tomesch, invented QikVin, a wine preservation device manufactured by MRH Products in West Bend. When COVID-19 halted production of QikVin, the company switched its operations and is now fabricating a new product every day—1,000 face shields.

A surgical unit in the United States Military recently placed an order for the personal protective gear, designed by the company’s CEO, Markus Schneider. Among other companies participating is Kapco Metal Stamping, Inc., in Grafton, according to Tomesch. A fundraising goal of $10,000 has raised nearly 15 percent to date.

3. They’re leveraging Concordia resources to 3D print N95-modeled masks.

Efforts began in late March when the university—with the largest 3D printing capacity of any Wisconsin nonprofit—sprung into action to daily produce heavy-duty, N95-modeled respirator masks.

Dr. Daniel Sem, Dean of the Batterman School of Business, heard from the medical community that the masks were in short supply and he presented a prototype to physicians at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. With the help and leadership of Dr. Mike Litman, who oversees the 3D printers, Concordia has mobilized dozens of makers throughout Wisconsin and beyond to print masks under their model. Dr. Kenneth Harris, a former Milwaukee Police Department lieutenant and an associate justice and public policy professor in the business school, is helping to organize pickup and delivery of the masks to nearby medical facilities.

4. They’re testing UV technology to disinfect face masks.

Bob Burlage, Concordia’s pharmaceutical and administrative sciences chair, and Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Uvidelio Castillo are contributing to a research effort that focuses on the use of ultraviolet light to disinfect N95 respirator masks.

While the UV disinfection technique won’t offer a long-term solution, Burlage and Castillo are exploring whether it could be helpful in light of the limited supplies of N95 masks so desperately needed on the front lines.

5. They’re joining PPE sewing groups.

Dr. Meghan Watry-Christian, an assistant occupational therapy professor, has been using part of her time during this “Safer at Home” mandate to sew face masks for essential workers as part of an area Facebook group called, “The Masked Sewists for Southeast Wisconsin.”

Along with her 11-year-old son, she and the group donated masks to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, along with the Ozaukee County Jail where her husband is a sheriff’s deputy.

“We are so thankful for all the essential workers who have to leave home to perform their jobs and put themselves at risk in order to keep our society functioning,” said Watry-Christian. “We just want to do our part to give back.”

6. They’re putting their expertise into action on the front lines.

Concordia’s professors are not just experts in the classroom; many of our full-time faculty and adjunct instructors also practice what they teach. This in-the-field expertise is coming in useful during the pandemic in particular. Professors like pharmacy professor Dr. Ernie Stremski and physician’s assistant professor Tiffany Frazier are stepping up for the local fight. Stremski serves in the emergency room at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, while Frazier serves in the ER at Ascension St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Serving in area inpatient units are pharmacy professors Dr. Sarah Peppard, Dr. Ann Parks, Dr. Joseph Rinka, Dr. Anne LaDisa, Dr. Robert Mueller, Dr. Hazel Thompson, Dr. Emily Bryant and Dr. Lynne Fehrenbacher, while two adjunct professors from the School of Nursing are working in COVID-19 units, Daniele Jurney and Nora Seifi.

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