Wisconsin dentists donate personal protective equipment amid COVID-19 pandemic

Photo from Wisconsin supply drive
Teamwork: Dr. Patricia McConnell, left, and a representative from ThedaCare health system in northeast Wisconsin partner for the Outagamie and Winnebago County dental societies' personal protective equipment drive.
West Allis, Wis. — Wisconsin dentists have answered the call for personal protective equipment by organizing drives and donating their surplus supplies to hospitals and urgent care facilities treating patients with COVID-19.

After postponing its Mission of Mercy charitable clinic scheduled for June because of the pandemic, the Wisconsin Dental Association donated 20,000 masks, 25,000 pairs of gloves and 1,700 gowns that would have been used at the two-day event to Wisconsin Emergency Management to distribute to hospitals, first responders and other care facilities throughout the state.

"It was disappointing to postpone this year's event, but we are honored to be able to step up to aid our fellow health care professionals in this unprecedented international crisis," Wisconsin Dental Association President Thomas Raimann said. "We are all in this together, and we are glad to support all of those who are dealing with this problem head on. The decision to donate personal protective equipment was made in response to the global shortage suffered by health care professionals who have seen supplies run critically low."

Dr. Patrick Tepe, past president of both the Wisconsin Dental Association and Greater Dane Dental Society in the Madison, Wisconsin, area, organized a drive with two other area dentists, Drs. Don Tipple and Robb Warren. They reached out to Greater Dane Dental Society members, as well as nonmember dentists in the area, to drop off items March 25 and 27 at three sites.

Drs. Tepe, Tipple and Warren asked dentists to evaluate their practices' supplies of personal protective equipment and donate one box of masks and one box of gloves, if they could. Dentists could also donate surface disinfectants and single-use surgical gowns.

The drive collected 4,000 masks, 11,250 pairs of gloves and some disinfectant for Madison-area hospitals and urgent care facilities, including University of Wisconsin Hospital, UnityPoint Health – Meriter Hospital, SSM Health St. Marys' Hospital – Madison and Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin – Urgent Care. Those totals do not include dentists who brought their donations directly to the facilities.
Photo of donated personal protective equipment
Big haul: Masks and gloves are donated as part of the Greater Dane Dental Society's supply drive.
"As health care providers, we have the unique opportunity to contribute personal protective equipment to assist our medical colleagues," Dr. Tepe said. "Due to the various 'safer at home' orders that many states are experiencing, we know that our use will be diminished over the coming weeks. Our 'ask' was simple, so that it specifically would not put a strain on any office's supply. We recognized that most dental offices do not stock N95 masks, the optimal personal protective equipment, but in a time of need, any surgical mask can be better than none."

Other local dental societies and offices in Wisconsin hosted their own drives as well, including the Greater Milwaukee Dental Association and the Outagamie and Winnebago County dental societies.

The Greater Milwaukee Dental Association collected personal protective equipment from its members and also donated supplies the association had saved from its Give Kids A Smile events, totaling 11,900 masks, 169 boxes of gloves, 140 gowns, 24 face shields and 19 tubs of disinfectant. The supplies were donated to the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin regional health network.

Dr. Patricia McConnell, who practices in Appleton, Wisconsin, organized the Outagamie and Winnebago County dental societies' drive in collaboration with ThedaCare health system in northeast Wisconsin. Dentists dropped off their personal protective equipment donations over a two-week period at three sites.

"This is a widespread need, but also a difficult need to address at the statewide level, but a perfect need to address on a true grassroots level with the local dental society," Dr. Tepe said.