UBC medical students respond to COVID-19 pandemic with innovation and teamwork

In times of crisis, necessity is often the mother of invention. These UBC medical students responded to the emerging challenges of COVID-19 by moving quickly, collaborating, and creating innovative solutions. We share their stories in the hope of educating and inspiring our fellow Canadians.

COVID-19 Rapid Literature Update Task Force

(March to June 2020)

Amanda Dancsok
Amanda Dancsok, eighth-year MD/PhD student, team leader

Amanda joined the COVID-19 Rapid Literature Update Task Force to support the Vancouver Coastal Health Infection Prevention and Control team. The task force provided rapid and reliable reviews of COVID-19 literature to support clinicians on the front lines and help develop health authority policies.

COSMIC Gravity Ventilator (gVent)

(March to May 2020)

Chase Crisfield Nicki Gabers
Chase Crisfield, MD, resident, inventor of gVent Nicki Gabers, MD, resident, gVent team co-leader

Chase and Nicki joined the Collective Open Source Medical Innovations for COVID19 (COSMIC) organization to contribute to the response to the COVID-19 crisis. While at COSMIC, they invented and developed the gVent, a novel ventilator for providing breathing support to COVID-19 patients. As shown in this video, the gVent is a pressure-controlled positive pressure ventilator. The components of the gVent cost $400 and the gVent can be assembled and operated in low-resource settings. The gVENT received a Roche Canada grant for $100 000.

SARS-CoV-2 Laboratory Surveillance System

(March to June 2020)

Christine Lukac
Christine Lukac, MPH, fourth-year medical student, epidemiologist with BCCDC

Christine worked with Dr Hind Sbihi to develop the COVID-19 BC province surveillance system. The system reports daily provincial COVID-19 cases, testing volumes, and percent-positive tests. The information generated by the surveillance system is shared daily with Dr Bonnie Henry, other medical health officials, and the public via the COVID-19 Dashboard on the BCCDC homepage. Christine’s work has supported the development of policies for promoting COVID-19 testing for specific populations, increasing testing volumes, and reducing test result turnaround time.


(March to September 2020)

Gabriel Blank Rod Vafaei
Gabriel Blank, fourth-year medical student, co-founder Rod Vafaei, MBT, fourth-year medical student, co-founder

Gabriel and Rod teamed up and used their love for art, medical knowledge, and leadership skills to create the COV-Ed team. The COV-Ed team produced educational cartoon videos about COVID-19 for children. The COV-Ed videos, which have been viewed over 100 000 times on YouTube, cover topics such as proper hand washing, the importance of social distancing and PPE.

COSMIC Clinical Respiratory Support System

(March to July 2020)

Ryan Yan
Ryan Yan, fourth-year medical student, co-lead

Ryan was the co-lead of the Clinical Respiratory Support team at COSMIC. As shown in this video, his team designed and built a low-cost and scalable positive pressure ventilation system to treat COVID-19 patients in respiratory distress. This Vancouver Sun article describes their “field hospital” demonstration at the BC Arts Club. Their design is published on the GitHub design sharing platform.

BC COVID-19 Medical Student Response Team (MSRT)

(March 2020 to present)

Vivian Tsang
Vivian Tsang, fourth-year medical student, co-founder

Vivian co-founded the MSRT to support frontline workers. The MSRT mobilized over 700 medical students from UBC to fill roles at the 811 HealthLink BC phoneline, provide child care for front-line workers, and provide prescription delivery for high-risk patients who couldn’t travel to their pharmacies. The MSRT’s work was covered in detail in this Vancouver Sun article.

UBC medical students have contributed with innovative and impactful responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. To learn more about these medical students and their response to COVID-19, check out their video interviews about their projects (here) and their messages to Canadians (here) on YouTube.
—Elsie Wang
Third-year BSc Student, UBC
—Philip Edgcumbe, MD, PhD
Diagnostic Radiology Resident, UBC
Med Edge Consulting, Principal

This post has not been peer reviewed by the BCMJ Editorial Board.

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