Global Ducks send surgical masks to UO Health Center

Stocking PPE supplies

In a demonstration of care and concern for the UO community, alumni in Singapore, New Zealand, Indonesia and the United States have banded together to acquire surgical masks for the University Health Center.

The donation, which arrived April 9, was coordinated through an alumni WhatsApp group. In all, it includes 20,000 surgical masks and a thousand N95 masks. Leaders of the effort requested anonymity, saying that receiving attention as individuals would detract from the collaborative spirit behind it.

As an essential service, the health center is open and serving students, including about a thousand from abroad, who had no alternative but to stay in Eugene after all of Oregon’s higher education institutions were mandated to conduct only remote instruction by order of the governor.

The gift, along with two others from Chinese Ducks, is making a big difference already, according to Debra Beck, executive director of the University Health Center. “It’s such a sense of security to our staff to know that we now have an adequate supply of masks so that we can keep ourselves healthy while serving our students,” Beck said. “We feel honored to receive this gift.”

The health center currently serves more than 50 to 100 students a day.

“These donations allow us to give ill students a more appropriate supply of masks for the 14-day duration of a respiratory illness,” Beck said. “However, unless the CDC says the public should wear surgical masks, we are required to use our inventory only for our health care providers and students who are sick."

If a surplus develops, Beck said, the health center will share it with UO's community health care partners. The university already has made one such donation, giving thousands of masks, medical supplies and personal protective equipment items to local agencies.

"These gifts, so practical and so needed, are amazing expressions of love and support from alumni from all around the world,” said Dennis Galvan, vice provost for global engagement. “We thank our global Ducks for lifting our spirits with such gracious acts of common humanity. This is what it looks like to be in the same boat." 

Current international students heard the good news about the gift before anyone else during the UO’s second Global Cafe, a new online forum just for them. The event featured a Q&A session with Jin-Jong “J.J.” Quek, an active member of S’pore Ducks, short for Singapore, who had the inside scoop on the donation. An adviser to several international schools around the world, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physical education from the UO in the early 1980s.

But that isn’t the only gift that the UO’s international Ducks have made. Three China Ducks, one a current student and the others UO graduates, also stepped up to help their university.

On this side of the Pacific Ocean: Binrui "Harry" Gao, a human physiology major living in Eugene. On the China side: Yawei Zhang, a 2015 graduate in product design, and his wife, Qiuya Ke (Yaya), a 2017 graduate in music performance.

Working independently, Gao paid for N95 masks and the Zhangs bought surgical masks for the University Health Center to use or share with other community health care providers.

"As an international student, I want to do my best to help our UO community stay safe," said Gao, a member of the class of 2021.

Zhang, who is the UO's admissions counselor in China, closely follows news about COVID-19's impact in the U.S.

"When the virus first happened in China, my UO colleagues were super supportive," Zhang said. "Now the face masks are overproduced here in China, so we thought, this is our turn."

—By Melody Ward Leslie, University Communications