PPE project helping both Kansas hospitals and domestic violence survivors

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A stethoscope is a key part of many health professionals uniform. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, it shined a new light on disposable stethoscopes.

One Wichita hospital decided to reach out for help.

“They said they couldn’t get their hands on their regular supply,” said Rob Gerlach, executive director of Tech Transfer and Commercialization at Wichita State University.

WSU decided to step up to the plate and team up with other engineers to form the Ad Astra coalition.

“We supplied a couple hundred to the hospital. They came back to us and they said, ‘These are better than what we were getting before the pandemic,'” Gerlach said.

The coalition took that design and improved it. Creating a design that could be used in hospitals across Kansas.

Helping stop the spread one stethoscope at a time.

“There are a number of studies out there that suggest that a potential carrier of these from one patient to another is actually the stethoscope,” he said.

Fast forward a few months, with the help of a grant Ad Astra is making thousands to donate.

Partnering with the Wichita Women’s Initiative Network to hire domestic violence survivors to do the assembling.

“These women you know they’ve been through so much and to be able to give back in a different way, it just puts a smile on their face,” said Amber Beck, executive director of Wichita WIN.

Ten survivors will be busy taking inventory, assembling, packaging, and shipping.

The project providing them a paycheck with an added bonus.

“A lot of women who come to us don’t have a lot of job skills or long term jobs. And so giving them something that they can take and move forward is so very important,” Beck said.

“I’m hopeful that some of these women after they have graduated the program and they’ve gone into the medical field that they get to use the equipment that they got to put together,” she said.

Each disposable stethoscope is made with tubing, earbuds, and 3D-printing. Moving forward they will use injection molds instead.

Beck says the first batches should be in the hands of doctors in a few weeks.

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