A newspaper story about the shortage of protective equipment and other lab supplies facing Boston-area health care workers responding to the Covid-19 pandemic prompted Professor of Biology Daniel Kirschner to immediate action. He put out a call to his colleagues for spare gear.

Daniel Kirschner

Daniel Kirschner

Kirschner, who retired at the close of 2019, said his co-workers responded with enough supplies to fill eight cartons, which he and his wife delivered to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

“I saw the article in the Boston Globe about the need for masks and personal protective equipment, so I sent an email to all faculty in the Biology Department asking if they had any supplies they could donate to support the people on the front lines of response to Covid-19,” said Kirschner. He included a link to the story as well as a copy of a request for help from Robert Coughlin, the president and chief executive officer of MassBio, an industry group.

“My colleagues responded immediately,” Kirschner said.

A variety of needed materials were left outside Kirschner's office, where he continues to work not only on preparing his research findings for publication, but also to advise and support undergraduates preparing for medical and graduate schools, and job hunting.

“My colleagues brought eye protection, disposable lab coats, gloves, surgical masks and other masks that they had, and spare PCR kits, which are used by researchers to detect and identify this coronavirus,” said Kirschner, whose own research focuses on the structural biochemistry of myelin—which is essential for fast nerve conduction—and its role in demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Guillain-Barré.

“I ended up with eight filled cartons,” said Kirschner. “People really came to bat and contributed extra equipment they had in their labs.”

Kirschner reached out to several organizations before he connected with Brian Bertrand, director of the materials logistics department at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

“They said, ‘Sure, we’ll take whatever you’ve got’,” said Kirschner.

On the evening of March 19, he collected the materials left outside his office and he and his wife, Susan Kahn, drove the supplies to the BIDMC campus in the Longwood medical area and passed them on to a staff member at a loading dock.

“It felt really good to hand over some badly-needed supplies," Kirschner said. “I’m very proud of my colleagues and their response to what are crucial needs for the people at the forefront of responding to this pandemic.”

Ed Hayward | University Communications | March 2020