Members of New Mexico INBRE work together to provide the WHO hand sanitizer, face shields and face masks to Native Communities in the state

During this challenging time, it is more critical than ever to come together to help those most in need.  Some of our recognized network members teamed up to distribute face masks and hand sanitizers to the needing New Mexico Native Communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.  This remarkable initiative started with New Mexico Tech and former INBRE student, Dr. Danielle Turner when she saw the recipe for the WHO Hand Sanitizer online and mentioned it to our NM-INBRE liaison at Tech, Dr. Snezna Rogelj.  

Both were able to find all the necessary ingredients to formulate the sanitizer and decided to make a small amount to share with their University. NMT President Dr. Stephen G. Wells heard of their efforts and asked if they would also be willing to donate to the surrounding Socorro community; this they happily agreed to.  Dr. Wells’ substantial supplemental funding increased production which then could quickly be donated to the University as well as the nearby town of Magdalena, the Alamo Reservation and Socorro itself.

As word of their outreach efforts spread throughout the university, NMT Associate Vice President for Research and Economic Development, Carlos Romero invited them to join the Governor’s statewide effort for COVID preparedness called the NM COVID-19 Emergency Supply Collaborative.  Thanks to this collaboration, Dr. Turner and Dr. Rogelj were able to connect with the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center (EMRTC), which is affiliated with NMT and making hundreds of 3D-printed face shields. EMRTC generously contributed to funding and sourcing of even larger quantities of starting materials for the hand sanitizer as well as the containers for its state-wide distribution.  

In parallel, Vanessa Quiñones from NMT’s Biology department coordinated with dozens of volunteers across Socorro and Magdalena to produce high quality face masks. Vanessa created instructionals and delivered her complete pre-assembled kits with precut propylene sterilization sheets to the volunteer seamstresses who completed the sewing of these reusable face masks.  Dr. Turner herself took on the most challenging task of overall coordination, from procurement and formulation to distribution and delivery of these NMT-produced PPEs. Since these are all donated and free of any charge, the majority of the NMT PPEs have gone to those who cannot afford to purchase them themselves, including the COVID-19 hardest-hit native communities across New Mexico. For example, Dr. Rogelj and Dr. Turner contacted NM-INBRE Science Advisor Dr. Vallabh “Raj” Shah from UNM who has a close relationship with the Native Communities of Acoma Pueblo and Zuni Pueblo, to help distribute the face shields and the hand sanitizer liquid.

As of today, almost 400 gallons of the hand sanitizer have been donated throughout the community of Socorro, Alamo Reservation, Navajo Reservation, Artesia, Roswell, Bernalillo, Alamo, Veguita, Zuni Pueblo and Sandoval counties, as well as Gallup, and other Native American Tribes in Northern NM. “It continues to be a humbling and fulfilling endeavor, and we’re so thankful we have the resources to be able to help others.   We continue to welcome suggestions regarding any clinics or shelters that might still need hand sanitizer across New Mexico.” Dr. Rogelj and Dr. Turner said.

NMT Mask Tutorial




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