Graduate Leads Initiative To Create Face Shields

When the COVID-19 pandemic created a shortage of personal protective equipment in Lufkin, Texas, Kyle King, D.D.S. Class of 2015, figured out how to fabricate face shields and rallied the close-knit community for support.

By Catherine Duncan

When a March 22 executive order from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott required dental practices to postpone all non-emergency procedures because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kyle King, D.D.S. Class of 2015, found himself at a loss. What does a young dentist do when he can’t go to work?

“I was at home watching everything unfold. I saw countless news stories about personal protective equipment shortages. Health care professionals who were caring for COVID and emergency patients were in great need of face shields. Then a friend, who is an M.D. in town, called and asked if we had any face shields,” said Dr. King, who is a dentist at Jordan Family Dentistry in Lufkin, Texas.

Dr. King said he decided to head to the dental practice to use the office 3D printer to begin fabricating face shields. “I initially planned to make 50 face shields. I made a few face shields and told my mother, who works in physician relations at a hospital. She sent a message out and soon we had more than 500 requests for shields.”

At that time, he said it would take about two hours to make one face shield on the office printer. “After contacting local urgent care centers, primary care offices, first responders and others, we had more than 1,000 requests for face shields,” Dr. King said. “I was shell-shocked by the need, but I became determined that we could provide the health care infrastructure the support it needed. I knew I needed help and recruited a local IT company with a 3D printer, along with the local junior college and high school, to help.”
Once word got out, the Lufkin community reached out asking how to help. “Our community is driven and resilient. After a PayPal Money Pool was created, we raised $6,500 in 72 hours so we could fabricate the shields.

“While the financial campaign was being held, we went through several prototypes over the course of a few days to scale production of the face shields. We ended up developing a shield framework made out of Lexan (an indestructible type of Plexiglass) and recruited the help of a local printing company to overnight clear 10 mil laminate sheets,” he said.

Volunteers from the community assisted in different aspects of production of the face shields. “We set up tables in the civic center so volunteers would maintain social distancing while they worked. Volunteers worked shifts between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. We fabricated more than 650 face shields in four days. To date, we have made 1,200 face shields and impacted over 105 different entities, including hospitals’ departments, physician offices, urgent care centers and law enforcement.

“Without a doubt, the coronavirus pandemic has drastically impacted the lives of all Americans in ways we never dreamed possible. It has shaken our economy to its core, and it has put our health care system to the ultimate test. However, it has also shown the resolve that all Americans have, that united we are stronger, and in times of crisis we come together for the common good,” he said. “COVID-19 has taught us all that fighting an invisible enemy can be a daunting and difficult task. However, it has also taught us the value of love, life, friendships, and that together, united, we will prevail.”

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In the 2020 issue of Salute

Salute is the official magazine for the alumni and friends of the School of Dentistry at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Read and share inspiring stories highlighting our dental alumni, faculty and students who are revolutionizing education, research, patient care and critical services in the communities they serve.

View the 2020 issue

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