NEWBURGH – Mount Saint Mary College Nursing students have been on the frontlines since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they are not the only ones aiding in the fight; The college’s School of Business is using 3D printing technology to create dozens of mask extenders for area healthcare professionals.
The extenders fit on virtually any mask and help to alleviate pressure and discomfort caused by tight straps. The extenders essentially wrap the mask around the back of the head instead of strapping it behind the ears. This is preferred by many healthcare workers who must use masks for extended periods of time.
Since the pandemic was declared, the Mount’s School of Business has been working to use 3D printing technology to aid healthcare workers, explained Tiffany Gagliano, Dean of the Mount’s School of Business.
With this in mind, Peter Gregory, instructor of Business, designed and printed the mask extenders. With the help of Alex Valentin, director of Technical Services, and the Mount’s Information Technology department, Gregory was able to retrieve a 3D printer from the college, bring it home, and begin creating the extenders.
Since then, Gregory has increased production to include a second printer, and he is currently working to add a third. With three printers in place, Gregory could make about 75 clips per day.
Considering that the Mount’s School of Business has both a Health Care concentration in the master’s program and a Health Care Management major for undergraduates, Business professors have spearheaded service opportunities in the field for years.
It “made complete sense” to create and donate the mask extenders, said Gregory, continuing, “This directly affects the generally overworked frontline personnel.”
Gregory added, “The Mount’s focus on service works well for the School of Business as it readily fits in with our capacity to work with regional businesses, organizations, and institutions, especially in a time of acute need as we are experiencing right now.”
Over the course of about three years, Gregory has been using a School of Business 3D printer to educate students and to print items recognizing the college’s hardworking MBA students. Using this experience as a springboard, Gregory observed the National Institute of Health guidelines and created the mask extenders.
When a batch of mask extenders is ready, Gregory passes them off to Gagliano for delivery to local healthcare workers. Gagliano recently delivered 50 mask extenders to Caryn Nienstadt, a nurse at White Plains Hospital. “Nurse Caryn was positively ecstatic to receive this donation for her and her co-workers,” explained Gagliano.
More donations are planned, according to Gagliano and Gregory. “We have recipients identified from New York City up through the Hudson Valley counties,” Gregory explained.
While Gregory continues creating mask extenders, Evan Merkhofer, assistant professor of Biology, has been working on creating 3D printed face shields. Using one of the Mount’s 3D printers, Merkhofer has made about a dozen face shields already. He plans to donate them to local healthcare professionals once he has created a sizable number of these shields.