News » BLS Faculty and Students Step Up in Support

BLS Faculty and Students Step Up in Support

It’s safe to say that Cliff Cymrot, MHA, assistant professor of biomedical laboratory sciences (BLS) at the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences, is more comfortable with test tubes and lab specimens than a sewing machine. And that’s precisely why his wife, Sheri, has given him the fabric cutting and ironing duties in their collaborative effort to sew face masks for health care workers.

“I am the support man,” said Cymrot, director of the BLS undergraduate Medical Laboratory Sciences programs. “She’s really good at sewing, so I help cut and iron the fabric. I’m good at boosting her morale, so I think that’s important, too.”

It was Sheri Cymrot’s idea to make protective non-surgical masks after learning about the initiative on a JOANN Fabrics and Crafts website. “I thought it sounded like a good idea,” Cliff Cymrot said. “She has a lot of fabric at the house – you might say she’s a collector of fabric.”

The couple started making the masks this week and will donate their handiwork to their local JOANN store for distribution. “It’s meaningful to know that there is a way we can contribute to the health of our community and also help us get through this pandemic,” he said.

The project hasn’t come without its costs: Cymrot’s ironing duties have resulted in a burn on his hand, but it’s a sacrifice he’s happy to make. He is also becoming a connoisseur of fabric patterns. “There are some dreadful patterns, but this is not about aesthetics.”

Cymrot’s colleague, Lisa Schwartz, EdD ’10, MS, associate professor of BLS, also has been inspired to help those on the front lines at GW Hospital after reading about a local pizzeria donating food to workers.

“That got me thinking, ‘how can I order food and have it delivered to whomever needs it,’” Schwartz recalled. A colleague at SMHS put Schwartz in touch with Audrey Jones, director of patient experience at GW Hospital, and the project took off. Schwartz invited her BLS colleagues to take part and about $500 has been donated for the deliveries.

In coordination with Jones, Schwartz has had pizzas from HomeSlyce DC delivered to the hospital twice, with more planned. “Ironically, one of the first groups at the hospital that the pizzas went to was the lab,” Schwartz said. “I’m out here in Leesburg (Virginia) and there’s not much I can do, but I can buy pizza and donate it. People on the front lines are being impacted much more than I am.

“I thought this would be a gesture that would make their lives a little easier. It’s a way for us to help.”

SMHS has compiled volunteer opportunities to help with the pandemic. Click here for an updated list of opportunitities.

Other BLS faculty and student COVID-19 involvement includes:

  • BLS graduate student, is working on COVID-19 testing in the Molecular/ Microbiology Department at Naval Medical Center San Diego, California;
  • Edmond Flores, BLS graduate student, is working on COVID-19 testing at Naval Hospital in Bremerton, Washington;
  • Cherisse Heirs, BLS graduate student, is assisting with COVID-19 clinical research at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, New York. Heirs is handling samples from a Regeneron/ICON partnership, where a rheumatoid arthritis drug, Kevzara, is being tested as a treatment for patients with severe cases of COVID-19;
  • Consuelo Mahon, adjunct assistant professor of BLS, is sewing masks;
  • Mark Salvador, BLS undergraduate student, is working with USU IDCRP on a COVID-19 study at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital;
  • Kendra Wenrich, BLS graduate student, is working on COVID-19 testing in her job as a hospital laboratory medical technologist at Norman Regional Health System in Norman, Oklahoma.