Cal State Channel Islands Involved In Off Campus Projects Aimed At Helping The Battle Against COVID-19

Thursday April 2, 2020

     Students, faculty, and staff at Cal State Channel Islands are involved in several off campus efforts aimed at helping the battle against COVID-19 (Photos courtesy CSUCI).

    Here are a couple of news releases from the University about two different efforts...


CSUCI Nursing students assist VCPH during COVID-19 crisis 

Camarillo, Calif., April 2, 2020 — CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) Nursing senior Lilian Kozma remembers walking into the call center at Ventura County Public Health (VCPH) on March 16, as more and more citizens were beginning to react to the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Those phones, I kid you not, would not stop ringing,” Kozma said. “There were public health nurses there, but they didn’t have time to show us what to do, so I just jumped in there and answered calls.”

Kozma and other CSUCI senior Nursing student volunteers, like Class of 2020 Nursing student Gabriel Mosse, said the “soft skill” training at CSUCI helped prepare them for this unprecedented moment. 

“At the beginning it felt very overwhelming,” Mosse said. “As I took phone calls, I realized, yes, I was prepared. The nice thing about being seniors if we’ve seen a variety of different types of medicine and different types of people. In this case, it wasn’t so much about medicine, but about interacting with different people, just like we did in clinicals (supervised interactions with patients in local healthcare facilities).”

Assistant Professor of Nursing Charlene Niemi, Ph.D., R.N., said she was alerted that VCPH was in need of nursing student volunteers the weekend of March 14-15, so she asked if any of her seniors would like to help, also offering to count the volunteer work as clinical hours.

“We wanted to be able to get hours, but the thought of being able to help with the public health department in this pandemic—that is perfect firsthand experience,” Mosse said. “Instead of doing hands-on clinical, we were doing hands-on nursing. We were taking calls from the public and health care facilities.”

Niemi’s specialty is public health, so she was gratified to see the students get experience during an actual public health emergency. Among the “soft skills” necessary for nurses, she said, was how to exercise critical thinking during an emergency.

“It brought together everything I lecture about into one moment,” Niemi said. “They needed to multitask. They needed to deal with a very worried and scared public. They were able to calm nerves. They were able to go on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) web site and keep themselves updated with changes. They knew what to say to business owners calling to ask what it meant to businesses if they had to close down.”

Kozma said the experience she gained was valuable, and multi-dimensional.

“We are at this point in time where we are dealing with a pandemic,” she said. “It’s something you don’t learn in class, even with our public health rotation. We usually go off case studies and everything is hypothetical. But now there’s a disaster going on and I was learning how to be an actual nurse with these people. Calming them down when everything is telling them to freak out. I really felt like I was getting to use my nursing judgment.”

VCPH Director of Public Health Nursing Megan Steffy said VCPH has been working with CSUCI ever since the Nursing program began, and can always count on getting high quality nursing students as volunteers or as new hires.

“They were quick learners with good critical thinking skills,” said Steffy. There are some things you can’t teach, like empathic listening, and these students did really well. I can always count on CSUCI.”


Working remotely CSUCI pulls together to print 3-D protective face shields


Camarillo, California, April 2, 2020 — CSU Channel Islands may be operating in a virtual environment right now, but CSUCI faculty, staff and students from several different academic programs have mobilized and fired up 3-D printers to print badly-needed protective face shields.

So far, 51 printers are humming away in University members’ garages, kitchens, bedrooms and dens across the region in an effort to help medical personnel protect themselves as they treat patients diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus.

“Otherwise our printers were just going to be sitting and gathering dust,” said Computer Science lab technician Ricky Medrano. “My printer is running in my bedroom 24 hours a day. It’s the white noise I go to bed with.”

The movement began about two weeks ago with Chemistry Lecturer Safa Khan, Ph.D., who worried constantly about her husband, a physician who was working at the Ventura County Medical Center (VCMC) and Santa Paula Hospital.

“I was crying every day,” Khan said. “My husband told me somebody donated a welder’s mask and they were using garbage bags as protective gowns.”

Then it occurred to her that the CSUCI campus had 3-D printers that could perhaps be operated remotely and campus members had their own personal 3-D printers at home.

“I emailed my program chair, my colleagues and asked if they knew anybody with a 3-D printer who would be willing to print face shields,” Khan said. “Within about two hours I had hundreds of responses. It was amazing.”

The volunteers came from several different academic programs including Chemistry, Physics, Environmental Science & Resource Management, Art, and Computer Science to name a few.

“When I first heard we had to stay home and work from home, I was reading the news and saw something about the need for 3-D face shields,” Medrano said. “Initially I was going to do it on my own, but five days later, I heard from Safa that they had a project going and I decided to jump in.”

When Professor of Chemistry Phil Hampton, Ph.D., heard about the project, he alerted the numerous contacts he developed as Director of the VC STEM Network, a web of schools, universities, businesses and others interested in promoting Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) education.

Hampton learned that a longtime contact of his, DeAnza Academy of Technology and the Arts

Technology and Aeronautics teacher Alex Wulff, had just begun a face shield 3-D printing project with a team of STEM students he mentors called STEMbassadors.

CSUCI volunteers joined forces with the STEMbassadors project, printing shields that Wulff and the students deliver to VCMC.

“The connection with CSUCI has been incredibly helpful,” Wulff said. “Because we’re part of the VC STEM network, I could get in touch with Phil (Hampton) and then get in touch with makers throughout the region.”

Khan had procured a $3,000 grant from Adobe to use for Earth Day, but with Adobe’s enthusiastic permission, she used the grant to purchase plastic for the shields instead.

Other larger plastics companies wanted Khan to pay more than she could afford with the grant, so she was grateful when a smaller Camarillo plastics company, American Plastics Corp., offered to donate plastic at no cost.

“It was another way to give back,” said American Plastics President Robert Washington. “I and my entire staff are doing whatever we can to help. We’re grateful to be a part of the solution.”