Carol Choi ’85 and Eugene Choi ’86, MBA ’01, UCI alumni and trustees of the UCI Foundation, provided 100,000 masks. Photo: Steve Zylius / UCI

UCI Alumni and Friends Band Together During COVID-19

UCI Alumni and Friends Band Together
During COVID-19

When reports first emerged in January that a novel coronavirus was spreading in Wuhan, China, UCI Health administrators launched into action. They knew they needed to get ahead of imminent supply shortages.

“It’s been nonstop since then,” says Susanna Rustad, executive director of operations at UCI Health. “The demand for some products grew four to 20 times the usual, depending on the category. So you can imagine the chaos of trying to get what we needed for our local community.”

As supply chains were disrupted and store shelves emptied, UCI alumni, parents, students and friends stepped up with donations of every size and kind – both money and personal protective equipment – that enabled UCI Health to care for patients and safeguard front-line medical workers.

The John and Mary Tu Foundation donated $1.25 million for COVID-19 research and another $1.25 million for healthcare workers. Carol Choi ’85 and Eugene Choi ’86, MBA ’01, provided 100,000 masks, leveraging their business connections to ship them via air freight and save time.

“This is about sharing in a time of need, whether you can give money or volunteer your time or help a neighbor with grocery shopping. If everybody pitches in, we’ll all be better for it.”

- Carol Choi ’85

“We were lucky to be in that position, and we wanted to be proactive because UCI is our community. Time was of the essence, and we needed to give the masks as soon as possible,” says Carol Choi. “This is about sharing in a time of need, whether you can give money or volunteer your time or help a neighbor with grocery shopping. If everybody pitches in, we’ll all be better for it.”

UCI medical school students have also collected thousands of N95 face masks, surgical masks, cloth masks, face shields, disposable gowns, gloves, disinfectant wipes and goggles for donation to UCI Medical Center.

UCI medical student Mehron Dhillon stacks donations of personal protective equipment during a drive for supplies in the School of Medicine parking lot. Photo: Steve Zylius / UCI

Inspired by the Brilliant Future campaign, Vy Vu, a junior in business administration, formed the Face Mask OC Team, recruiting volunteers to create washable, triple-layer cloth face masks at home and help deliver them to dozens of hospitals and organizations across Southern California. In just five weeks during April and May, the team raised $7,500 for materials and distributed nearly 11,000 masks, including 500 at the UCI Medical Center.

In mid-April, Catherine Zhou, who earned an MBA at The Paul Merage School of Business in 2004, partnered with alumni and parents in China to organize a fundraising drive.

In April, UCI Health was anticipating the worst: a potential influx of up to 900 patients – more than double the hospital’s existing capacity of 418 beds.

Thankfully, that scenario never materialized. However, UCI Health continues to ensure it is well-stocked with PPE and other supplies. “If we stay resolute to finish this marathon, steadfast in our conservation efforts and appropriate use, we will successfully balance the needs of today with what is potentially around the corner,” Rustad says.

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