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University of Arizona College of Medicine Gets Donations from Los Altos Robonaut Students and AMWA for PPE to Assist Healthcare Workers of the Navajo Nation
By Lisa Padilla - Friday Jun 05, 2020
Nationwide healthcare workers continue to face shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE). The American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) has joined efforts with The Robonauts, a 501©(3) founded to teach STEM and leadership skills to young learners, to help provide 200 3-D printed face shields, 100 one-time use face shields (donated by Dinsmore), 350 surgical masks and 96 cloth masks (donations from Taiwan through Ambassador HE Lily Hsu of TECO and AMWA leader Dr. Padmini Murthy) to help the Navajo Nation with the University of Arizona College of Medicine -- Phoenix's OPERATION PEGASUS project to send PPE to their healthcare providers who have been hard hit by COVID-19. Donations are being delivered via air and ground to Window Rock, AZ, Kayenta, AZ, Gallup, NM, White River, AZ, the Tsehoostooi Medical Center in Ft. Defiance, AZ, Chinle Comprehensive Health Center in Chinle, AZ and Tuba City Indian Medical Center in Tuba City, AZ. The Navajo Nation COVID-19 statistics as of June 2nd are 5,533 positive cases with 252 deaths.

AMWA Leader and one of the COVID-19 Student Service Corps Leaders, Nicole Segaline, MD Candidate, University of Arizona College of Medicine (’21) says, “Our mission at the University of Arizona College of Medicine--Phoenix COVID-19 Student Service Corps (CSSC) is to support Arizona health systems and their patients, workforce, and communities facing the COVID-19 pandemic. We have created a collaboration between multiple graduate and undergraduate programs throughout Arizona to bring students together to help during these times. We currently have 22 programs up and running with over 150 volunteers. These programs include Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) projects, food and resource programs, education projects, helplines, epidemiological projects, research, along with community outreach."

Operation Pegasus is an initiative to deliver medical and non-medical supplies to the Navajo Nation. To date, they have moved large shipments of PPE through their partnership with Guardian Air Transport, who have donated their crew, aircraft and time to deliver these items. To date, they have had 8 flights that have delivered over 1,500 lbs. of critical PPE to Navajo Nation, Hopi Nation and Gallup, NM. They have helped move another 5.5 tons of donations via ground travel. All of these donations have been obtained from local and corporate donors or made by members of the CSSC's COVID-19 Innovation Team.

Segaline adds, “Through these flights, the leaders of this project have developed a strong relationship with the Attorney General Doreen McPaul of the Navajo Nation. Just last week, she asked for our assistance in helping move a large donation from the Korean Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs in honor of the members of Navajo Nation who served in the Korean War. In less than 48 hours, we helped coordinate the transport of 10,000 N95 masks along with 3.9 tons of food/water donated by the Arizona Korean Association and the Republic of Korea. Additionally, we were approached by the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix Internal Medicine Residency program to co-host a donation drive. In less than one week, we received more than 2,200 lbs. of donations which were driven to Kayenta, AZ." She added, “We currently have another 500 lbs. of donations that will be driven or flown up to Navajo Nation in the coming week. We are also assessing the needs of our other rural communities in Arizona and will be sending PPE to areas in need.”

AMWA’s partnership with The Robonauts was launched by Michelle Benedict, Director of Research and Development at AMWA, who also helped accelerate 3-D PPE printing efforts at the University of Michigan Medical School. Ms. Benedict commented, “During this pandemic, we have been continually impressed by our dedicated, creative AMWA members and specifically the CSSC’s ability to mobilize so many resources in such a short amount of time to respond to the critical needs of the Navajo Nation. It has been our pleasure to contribute hundreds of face shields and face masks to this rapid response effort. We are continuing to expand our manufacturing collaboration with industry partners to be able to scale to meet the needs of healthcare providers nationally. This work would not be possible without the many generous financial and supply donations that have poured in globally. Thank you to everyone who has supported our mission of protecting frontline workers and their vulnerable patients."

Sophia Shams, founder of The Robonauts and an AMWA premed member, is also a member of Space Cookies, a First Robotics Competition Team 1868 created through a partnership between NASA and the Girl Scouts. Ms. Shams states “The Robonauts feel a profound responsibility in assisting to combat COVID-19 during this critical time. We are thankful to our donors and volunteers who enable us to support our Healthcare Heroes. Our team consists of High School and Middle School students volunteering their time to print these much needed PPE. We hope to partner with industry leaders to mass-produce these much-needed supplies.”

Operation Pegasus is an initiative of the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix COVID-19 Student Service Corps whose mission is to support Arizona health systems and their patients, workforce, and communities facing the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, visit

Based in Los Altos, California, The Robonauts mission is to teach K-12 students STEM skills using robotics. They teach leadership through the STEMup program and create volunteering opportunities. For more information, visit

Founded in 1915, the American Medical Women’s Association functions at the local, national, and international level to advance women in medicine, advocate for equity, and ensure excellence in health care. For more information, visit

By Charlotte Tomic

Group Photo shows:

CSSC & Operation Pegasus Leaders with Guardian Air Transport crew

Top row
Kevin Gochenour MS4, Guardian Air Flight Nurse Garet Smith, Guardian Air Flight Paramedic Brad Catroneo, Guardian Air Pilot Jim Bailey, Tory Prynn MS4, Dr. Stephanie Briney.

Bottom Row
Nicole Segaline MS4, Janell Tully MS3, Cornel Popescu MS4.