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OHSU students pick up needle and thread to support vulnerable populations

Students make and distribute hundreds of masks
hand sewn flat fold masks
The mask-making effort is a project of the student-run Bridges Collaborative Care Clinic; funding from the clinic and community donations was used to pay for supplies for the mask makers. (OHSU)

Oregon Health & Science University students quickly realized that suspension of their clinical activities due to COVID-19 requirements also halted their work in another area: the Bridges Collaborative Care Clinic.

Since 2017, dozens of health care professions students across OHSU, PSU and OSU programs have been bringing their skills to provide primary care management and basic health and dental services to individuals experiencing houselessness two Saturdays a month in the foyer of Transition Projects Clark Center Annex, a short-term transitional shelter for homeless men in inner-Southeast Portland. Their work is supervised by licensed health-care professionals.

Unable to continue the clinic during the pandemic, yet recognizing that their patients need them now more than ever, they figured out another way to help: sewing masks.

a pair of young people, woman and man, holding shopping bags full of masks
Huong Nguyen, left, and Bin Chen, OHSU School of Medicine M.D. Class of 2022, are co-leading the effort to sew masks with classmate Dana Button. (OHSU)

Second-year medical students Dana Button, Bin Chen and Huong Nguyen took the lead in organizing more than 50 dentistry, medical, nursing and public health students and community members to dust off or pick up sewing skills and get busy in their homes and apartments across Portland. A local clothing company helped organizers mass-cut the fabric and surgical wrap, and then volunteers followed patterns provided by the organizers to sew the masks. All costs were handled through clinic funds and donations.

“The concern for global shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) immediately made us think of Portland’s most vulnerable populations, so we organized a network to collect, distribute and sew masks,” the students explained in a joint statement for this news article.

In the past week, the students donated more than 400 masks to Transition Projects, 300 to the OHSU School of Medicine Department of Family Medicine, 200 to Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center, 70 to Portland People’s Outreach Project and 60 to Hooper Detox Center. They have now expanded their operation to make another 5,000 masks for other organizations caring for the vulnerable and underserved.

“Bridges Collaborative Care Clinic has always tried to find ways to engage with disadvantaged communities and this was another opportunity to expand our efforts to live up to that mission,” the students said. “We have been extremely lucky as many students, BCCC volunteers, and community members have come together to make this all possible.

“By far, the most inspiring part of this project has been the overwhelming support of people who have been willing to help – all so those who cannot practice social distancing can be safer during this pandemic. We hope that these efforts will help Portland flatten the curve keeping our community safe. We hope to build strong connections because the vulnerabilities and disparities in our community will outlast this pandemic and it will take these types of relationships to address them.”

If you would like to help with this project, please email:








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