Two Clarkson Professors Honored for Their Innovations
The Potsdam Volunteer Rescue Squad (PVRS) has been awarded the 2021 New York State Bureau of Emergency Medical Services and Trauma Systems EMS Innovation Award for Clinical Delivery Innovations for the UV Decontamination systems and procedures they developed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Clarkson University Professors Doug Bohl and Chris Towler, who are members of the Rescue Squad, led the effort to develop two systems that aided PVRS during the pandemic.
The award citation noted that “The pandemic highlighted the need for prehospital providers to utilize proper protective measures to protect themselves and their patients from communicable diseases. This resulted in a greater emphasis on the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the proper decontamination of equipment, including ambulances. It was clear early in the pandemic that addressing PPE shortages to extend limited supplies would require creativity and innovation. This was particularly true for disposable N95 respirators, which were in high demand in both prehospital and hospital settings. There was considerable effort and research within the medical, scientific, and engineering communities investigating methods for safely and effectively decontaminating single-use N95’s. However, most of these methods were expensive, complicated or inappropriate for use at prehospital EMS agencies, especially smaller departments with limited financial resources and buying power. There was an immediate need for appropriate N95 decontamination.
The second need that arose from the COVID-19 pandemic was for methods to effectively decontaminate equipment, including ambulance boxes. While decontamination using manual wiping/mopping with appropriate solutions effectively cleans and sanitizes the majority of surfaces, secondary methods to ensure decontamination of all surfaces in an ambulance box became important to ensure both patient and provider safety. Commercial systems did exist, however, they too were expensive and had long lead times during the spring and summer of 2020.
Doug and Chris developed two different UVC systems that were low cost (under $350) and easy to construct by someone with basic home electric wiring skills. Both use parts that could be easily purchased at local hardware stores and through online suppliers. The two systems were built, tested, and used extensively at the Potsdam Volunteer Rescue Squad. This allowed for the extension of PVRS’s limited N95 supply. As a result no providers had to go without an N95 or to reuse a respirator that was known to be contaminated.
Bohl, a professor of mechanical & aerospace engineering, and Towler, a clinical associate professor of physical therapy also built these systems for Clarkson. There are two room UV systems on campus. One is in the health center to clean exam rooms, the other is with facilities to decontaminate quarantine rooms.