By Kristen Zapata, School of Dentistry

Several volunteers have joined campaigns across the the city to take up their needle and thread to create supplemental face masks in place of a dwindling surgical mask supply.

Qun Li and Michelle Bendele, research associates in the department of endodontics, began by partnering with a local nonprofit who put a call out on social media for community volunteers to help sew cloth masks for medical center hospitals. But when UT Health San Antonio implemented a face mask protocol for all personnel on campus, they pivoted and began sewing masks for non-clinical employees from their department who didn’t have surgical masks.

a group shows off face masks in a group chat.
Endodontic department members show off their new masks in a socially distanced group photo.

Their masks are made out of tightly woven cotton, double layered, and easily washable.

“I’ve always enjoyed sewing as a hobby and in light of the recent shelter-in-place situation, I had some free time on my hands and wanted to do my part to help,” Li said.

Bandele added: “Making masks has given me a new sense of purpose each day.”

Poornima Mensinkai, an assistant professor in the department of comprehensive dentistry, is also using her skills to sew cloth face masks for first responders, sanitation workers, nurses and military personnel by donating her time to a Hindu faith-based service organization. Her double layer masks feature a pocket in which a filter can be placed for added protection. Dr. Mensinkai reflects on the sacrifice health providers are enduring by choosing to isolate themselves from their families in order to protect them.

“As we do not have the adequate amount of resources currently, I decided to take the old-school route in which sewing masks was the best thing that I could do,” Dr. Mensinkai said. “Utilizing my skill to sew was the least I could do.”

This story first appeared in the School of Dentistry News.