The college has provided hundreds of pieces of the protective gear that is in short supply nationwide to front-line health care workers at Tri-City, Kaiser and Temecula Valley Hospital.

SAN MARCOS — Surgical masks, eye shields, disposable gloves: For decades, items like these have been staples in hospitals and classrooms alike, barriers to infection and cross-contamination.

But as COVID-19 spread around the country, filling emergency rooms and forcing medical classrooms like Palomar’s to move to remote learning for the semester, faculty took action. It became apparent that one way Palomar College could help in the current crisis was to donate its supplies of Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, while the hands-on lab portions of the nursing curriculum are on temporary hold.

“In the Nursing Department, we have adjunct faculty who work at Kaiser and Temecula Valley Hospitals. Knowing how important this equipment is, they made a desperate plea because they don’t have what they need to keep themselves protected,” said Julie Van Houten, chair of the Nursing Department at Palomar. “I knew we had stuff in the lab that wasn’t being used because we had to close our clinical sites. So I asked if we could donate it, and the administration said yes.”

The two adjunct faculty who arrived at Palomar on Monday, March 23 to pick up the supplies were Charity Tang and Tami Heaston.

“Both of these nurses were my students at one point, and now they’re back at Palomar, teaching. They came and picked up masks, gowns, gloves, and also some hand sanitizer and eye shields,” Van Houten recalled. “They were in tears when they were thanking me. The masks, they’re just so important.”

A week later, on March 30, the Dental Assisting program at Palomar donated its supplies of PPE to Tri-City Medical Center after the college received a request from Aaron Byzak, the hospital’s Chief External Affairs Officer, who also serves on the board of the Palomar College Foundation.

“Tri-City is such a major community partner, and they employ many of our students after graduation,” said Stacy Rungaitis, the Foundation’s Executive Director. “It’s so rewarding to be able to help our community in this way during such a unique time, and we are grateful for the opportunity to support our front-line medical workers at Tri-City Medical Center.”

Palomar College Superintendent/President Dr. Jack Kahn said the donations illustrate Palomar’s close connections with many key hospitals and health care providers in the region.

“We are honored to be able to help the staff at these hospitals who are working so hard to keep up with the threat of COVID-19,” Kahn said. “We wish the doctors and nurses—and especially our alumni working in health care—all the best as they tackle this crisis.”