Outreach and Grassroots Initiatives Augment the Fight Against COVID-19

Allyson Ocean, MD, discusses some of the key initiatives that she has helped spearhead to raise awareness on COVID-19 and provide PPE to those who need it.

By leveraging relationships and her voice on social media, Allyson Ocean, MD, is helping to raise awareness on the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19), and in doing so, provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to those on the frontlines.

“Through this campaign, we've partnered with GetUsPPE.org, which is an amazing grassroots organization started by emergency room physicians. It’s essentially a clearinghouse for PPE. At least 1800 institutions can register with this nonprofit organization if they need PPE or if they have PPE donate. [The website] matches needs with donations to [disseminate] PPE across America,” said Ocean.

In an interview with OncLive, Ocean, an associate attending physician, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, and associate professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, discussed some of the key initiatives that she has helped spearhead to raise awareness on COVID-19 and provide PPE to those who need it.

OncLive: How are you using social media to relay information regarding COVID-19?

Ocean: I am glad that I have a voice in that world, because we need to make sure people know what is correct, what is not correct, and what is the best way that they can protect themselves from the virus. On Twitter, I’ve been retweeting important articles. I was asked to write a piece for Katie Couric about how the pandemic has affected patients with cancer. That was published on Medium, so that was great. We get to put our voice out there that way.

I have a friend who is the chief executive officer of a content company called CloseUp360 that profiles players from the National Basketball Association (NBA). I partnered with him to create a campaign called Hooper's Meets Heroes, in which we're pairing NBA players with a frontline health care worker to interview them about their experiences on the frontline. [In that interview they can share] what they're seeing in their own city and the messages they want to get across to people. We're trying to target a younger demographic, and it's really taken off; it's been wonderful. We've done about 10 interviews so far. I'm tweeting those [articles] and putting them on Instagram to get the word out. That is something I'm doing in the social media realm to raise awareness.

How can we overcome PPE shortages?

Many places have shortages. In the beginning of this crisis in early March, I put a word out on Facebook to my friends, not physicians or health care workers, saying, “I know I'm going to need PPE. We don't really have enough N95 masks, so please send them to me if you have them.”

So many of my friends donated masks to me, all of which I have taken to the hospital. We've used these masks to see patients. These were N95 masks, the official 3M masks. That was wonderful.

You're not supposed to reuse N95 masks. You have to assume that everyone has been exposed [to the virus] in some way, so you’re supposed to throw away a mask [after seeing a patient]. We don't have enough masks do that after every patient encounter [in the clinic]. They do that in the hospital, but we do not have enough masks in the outpatient clinic for that. I’ve been wearing the N95 mask with a surgical mask on top. I try to change [the surgical mask] every couple of days that I see patients.

We really do a great job of screening patients before they come in to make sure they don't have symptoms. We check their temperature. The second they get off of the elevator, we “grill” them about their symptoms and make sure they don't have anything. Our patients are really behaving themselves because they don't want to get [the virus]. They're staying inside and doing a great job with social distancing. I really don't feel that I'm at a huge risk when I'm seeing my patients on a daily basis because of the PPE I have.