Sparrow Health System receives MSU Extension 2020 Key Partner Award

MSU Extension honored Jon Baker, Bill Degg, and Alan Vierling of Sparrow Health System for creating new ways to fight the pandemic during the annual Fall Extension Conference held virtually on Sept. 29.

Michigan State University Extension awarded Jon Baker, Bill Degg, and Alan Vierling of Sparrow Health Systems with a 2020 Key Partner Award on Sept. 29. The Key Partner Award recognizes those that have made significant contributions to support and promote MSU Extension programs.

Sparrow Health System’s Alan Vierling, president; Jon Baker, director of laboratories; and Bill Degg, director of clinical engineering; are MSU Extension Key Partners. 

When the coronavirus pandemic came to Michigan in March 2020, health care leaders quickly became concerned about a shortage of personal protection equipment (PPE). Sparrow Health System administrators were very open about addressing the lack of adequate PPE and their need to find solutions to protect their staff and patients.

Almost immediately, the Sparrow team and MSU Extension leaders put their heads together to discuss decontaminating N95 respirators for reuse by medical professionals. Working with the MSU Product Center’s Food Processing and Innovation Center (FPIC), the two organizations leaned on each other for technical expertise and practical application.

Alan championed the cause and empowered his team to work closely with Extension. Bill immediately invited MSU Extension specialists to the main hospital to learn about their staff’s processes for fitting, using, and removing PPE, and coordinated the pickup and return of N95 respirators. Jon continues to orchestrate the microbial validation work and helped bring the teams together to find solutions as obstacles were identified.

The result was the MSU Extension Dry Heat Decontamination System for N95 Respirators. By retooling the commercial spiral oven at FPIC, MSU Extension staff are able to steadily heat the respirators long enough to kill viruses and bacteria. The respirators are then sealed in individual bags and transported to a Sparrow warehouse where they are left to further decontaminate for three days before being returned to health care workers.

This unique process fundamentally benefitted from the expertise and openness of both organizations. Their cooperation moved a tedious development process that would normally take months to a successful model in a matter of weeks. Sparrow’s willingness to share their knowledge and be the test subject for this process led to a protocol now available to professionals around the world.

A hearty congratulations to the Sparrow Health System for receiving the MSU Extension Key Partner Award. 


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