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April 21, 2020
By Mary HightowerU of A System Division of Agriculture
(357 words)(Download this story in MS Word format here.)
LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas veterinarians have pitched in to help healthcare workers on
the COVID-19 frontlines, an effort that began with a donation from some future veterinarians.
In March, the Briarwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Little Rock had more
than three dozen cases of COVID-19.
“Most people don’t realize that nursing homes don’t have access to the personal protective
equipment supply chain like hospitals do, because they usually don’t need it,” said
Ward, extension veterinarian for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
Among her extension roles, Ward works with the Arkansas 4-H program, leading the Arkansas
4-H Veterinary Science Program that fosters youth who want a career in veterinary
medicine. The program includes hands-on work with animals.
“We just happened to have 30 isolation gowns and 60 masks for them to have,” she said.
Seeing the situation at Briarwood, Ward called to offer the program’s equipment. The
center told her to come on down.
The nurse who took in the equipment was shocked by what she saw.
“I didn’t know it was PPE. We thought it was going to be homemade masks,” the nurse
told Ward. “You don’t understand how much we have been needing these N95 masks.”
A photo of the donated PPE was posted on the Arkansas Veterinary Medical Association
Facebook page. One thing led to another.
Because of the post, the Veterinary Medical Association and the Veterinary MedicalExamining Board called Ward and asked her to help create a survey to collect “PPE
from veterinary clinics across the state to get it to the right people.”
Working with the Arkansas Veterinary Medical Association, the Arkansas Department
of Agriculture, the Arkansas Department of Health and the Game and Fish Commission,
a survey was created, and an online link emailed to all active veterinarians in the
state asking what PPE they might have to donate and what diagnostic and biosafety
expertise they might have.
“We had 188 veterinary hospitals answer the call and say they were able to donate.
In some cases, it was a maybe a box of gloves or some gowns, but we did have one veterinarian
who offered a human-grade ventilator,” Ward said. “It may not seem like much, but
that one ventilator could be keeping one person from dying.”
Because the results of the survey went directly to the Arkansas Department of Health,
the total quantities aren’t known.
“Not only did the survey show that veterinarians around the state were willing to
help where they could, but it also showed what can be accomplished when several state
entities come together with a common goal,” said Cara Tharp, director of the Veterinary
Medical Examining Board. “Through good communication and the willingness to work together,
we were able to reach out to the veterinary community and collect important information.”
Ward said, “It’s been a great collaboration. It started some other conversations on
how the veterinary community can, aside from donations, help on the front lines.”
Ward is among the veterinarians on standby to help with COVID-19 tests due to her
experience with reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, known as RT-PCR,
a technique researchers use to measure RNA samples. This is among the methods used
to detect the COVID-19 virus.
To learn more about animal health, contact your local county extension agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu. Follow us on Twitter at @UAEX_edu.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen
agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption
of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative
Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work
within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas
System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity,
sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran
status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative
Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media Contact: Mary HightowerDirector of CommunicationsUniversity of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture email@example.com 501-671-2006