The University of Iowa

In the news: From China to Iowa, a helping hand for PPE

April 21st, 2020

Community member Jun Cao (center) and Zhang Lu (left) unload boxes of personal protective equipment to be donated at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics main entrance in Iowa City on Monday, April 13, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

By Alison Gowans, The Gazette 

When parents of Chinese students studying at the University of Iowa heard about shortages in the United States of personal protective equipment needed during the coronavirus pandemic, they immediately wanted to do something to help, even from some 7,000 miles away.

So a group of more than 50 parents reached out to members of the Chinese and Chinese American community in Iowa City and, soon, an international partnership was born.

The community members in Eastern Iowa had already been talking, chatting on social media. They had closely watched the virus’s impact in China and were worried about it’s arrival in Iowa. Many are members of the UI School of Medicine and knew their colleagues would be impacted directly.

“A few of my (medical school) classmates are front line fighters in Wuhan,” said Fan Lin, an associate professor in the UI College of Medicine. “Protecting medical people is so important … it’s not necessary to lose lives by not protecting them.”

In mid-March, she and about 15 others formed a group, “Eastern Iowa ‘PPE for Healthcare Workers’ Chinese American Volunteers.” The core members took on leadership roles, but more than 150 additional supporters contributed to a GoFundMe set up through the Chinese Church of Iowa City. They quickly raised more than $25,000 to help with the efforts.