A group of UCD medical students are spearheading an initiative to deliver medicines to people who are self-isolating at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been an incredible response to the scheme, which is coordinated through the COVID-19 Medicine Deliveries Facebook group. There are already some 750 volunteers and 250 participating pharmacies nationwide, and the network is growing day by day.
The group is calling for volunteers studying medicine, pharmacy, physiotherapy and other healthcare courses. However, if demand continues to increase they will expand the volunteer base beyond healthcare disciplines. Their primary aim is to connect students with their local pharmacies to help get medication to those in need at this difficult time, when many are unable to leave their homes.
David Shanahan, a qualified pharmacist now studying medicine at UCD, is one of the organisers. “It’s very enlightening that people are taking this seriously and they want to do something about it, it’s just amazing,” he says.
In a video for the Irish Times, fellow pharmacist, medical student and co-organiser Margaret Ellen Clerkin talks about the project while out and about delivering medicines in Dublin.
UCD has set up a call centre to provide advice and test results to people who have been tested for COVID-19, and to trace the people they may have had physical contact with following infection.
Located within the UCD O’Brien Centre for Science and established by Professor Patrick Wall and Professor Mary Codd of the UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science, the call centre is the first of its kind outside the HSE, and is staffed by HSE-trained volunteers from across the UCD community.
Doctors from the UCD staff are providing clinical and public health expertise onsite, with back-up support from Dr Greg Martin, Public Health Lead at the HSE.
Dr Conor Buggy, Assistant Professor in Occupational and Environmental Studies and a volunteer at the UCD call centre tweeted: “We are all doing this to support our HSE and our country.”
Assay Genie – an Irish company co-founded by UCD biochemistry graduate Seán Mac Fhearraigh along with Colm Ryan – reacted immediately to the initial reports of the spread of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China. They have developed a kit for rapid testing for the virus, which will be ready for global release within weeks.
Testing a single drop of blood, the novel kit can provide results in just 15 minutes. That’s a massive improvement on the current testing method, which takes four hours to give a result. As the demand for testing increases day by day, the need for speed and easier access to testing is critical.
News of the testing kit is also spreading rapidly, and the company has received offers of assistance and collaboration from labs in Ireland and elsewhere. Meanwhile, the Health Directorate of Saint Helena – part of the British Overseas Territory, and one of the world’s remotest islands – has requested a shipment of kits as part of their contingency planning for COVID-19.
Award-winning engineer Colin Keogh is leading a group of global technology experts working to develop easy-to-assemble ventilators that can be built using 3D printers and off-the-shelf components. The Open Source Ventilator Project was initiated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the realisation that many countries do not have enough ventilators to meet the increasingly urgent demand as the virus spreads rapidly across the globe.
Colin and his collaborators in Ireland are working with the HSE to test and validate six prototype devices. They are working closely with some 300 computer engineers, scientists, doctors and researchers around the world who have answered the call to apply their knowledge, skills and creativity to develop innovative ways of producing vital medical equipment quickly and cheaply. As one collaborator put it, they are “building the plane while it flies.”
Colin will complete his PhD in Creative Technology Innovation at UCD this year, and has previously been included in the Forbes list of 30 Under 30 “who will impact Europe for the next 50 years”.
Leo Varadkar and Simon Harris visited the UCD National Virus Reference Laboratory on Wednesday 18 March to personally thank the team for their tireless efforts in the drive to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Laboratory is one of Ireland’s key testing hubs for the virus, and the Taoiseach and Minister for Health acknowledged the staff’s outstanding response to the call to ‘test, test, test’ issued by the World Health Organization.
As testing for COVID-19 is ramped up around the country, the Taoiseach and Minister thanked Dr Cillian De Gascun and his team for their hard work, and took the opportunity to learn more about the testing procedure and the measures in place to meet the current, unprecedented demand for the Laboratory’s services.
“Thanks for all your hard work!” the Taoiseach tweeted after the visit. Minister Harris added: “@CillianDeGascun and his team have been heroes in a time of crisis. An opportunity to say thank you but also to learn more.”
A new access programme that provides tailored support and mentorship for students at UCD has been recognised by Social Innovation Fund Ireland at the 2019 Children and Youth Funds awards.
UCD Sutherland Opportunity supported by Mason Hayes & Curran is a new initiative that aims to increase participation by under-represented groups, and uses ‘wrap-around’ supports that extend from targeted outreach, routes to study, provision of scholarships, personal and academic support, internships, and mentoring.
Included in the initiative are a set of measures and supports for students, who experience barriers to education to gain access to UCD School of Law, and also to ensure that, while there, they receive all the necessary guidance to retain their place and participate fully in college life that will transform their education, career and life outcome.
The award recognises the generosity and vision of our founding donor, Mason Hayes & Curran, together with the many alumni of UCD School of Law who support and engage with this flagship student support initiative.