Photo of Associate Warden Burks with the supplies, who was instrumental in reception and distribution of the supplies (photo provided by Lauren Nguyen)
June 16, 2020 – The School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine faculty, staff, students, and alumni are working on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak. We have asked any affiliates with our school to share their experiences and stories. This story comes from Lauren Nguyen:
Affiliates with the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Newcomb Institute and College, and the School of Medicine provided hygiene products, gowns, and masks to the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women
Dr. Sally Kenney, Executive Director, Newcomb Institute and Newcomb College, approached Dr. Patty Kissinger, Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Development at Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine about the lack of hygiene products at Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women (LCIW). From there MD/MPH Candidate 2023 and Formerly Incarcerated Transitions Clinic case manager, Lauren Nguyen, became involved in collecting and delivering donations.
“Once I became involved, I reached out to Dr. Hongbing Liu of the New Orleans Chinese Association and Dr. Corinne Gibb at the Tulane Chemistry Department and explained that LCIW had the highest number of COVID-19 cases of any other state correctional facility in Louisiana and that I was hoping to deliver hygiene donations there as soon as possible.” said Nguyen.
Dr. Liu generously offered 1000 surgical masks and the KN95 respirators he had left over on behalf of the New Orleans Chinese Association. Similarly, Dr. Gibb immediately offered to donate 15 gallons of medical-grade disinfectant. Nguyen also received $500 from a one-time COVID-19 relief fund for being a long-time member of Voice of the Experienced (VOTE), a local criminal justice reform organization, and she used this money to purchase 200 personal hand sanitizers from a local distillery-turned-hand sanitizer factory, Lula's Distillery.
After explaining why she was buying these hand sanitizers in bulk, Lula's Distillery also donated 50 extra bottles of hand sanitizer. After picking up these supplies, she coordinated with Operation Restoration, another criminal justice reform organization that fights for the rights of formerly and currently incarcerated women, to have all of these items delivered to Elayn Hunt Correctional Center, a part of LCIW.
Finally, the soap donated came from funds from the Newcomb Prison Project, an undergraduate student organization, and the gowns required some coordination with Dean Lee Hamm of the School of Medicine. All together we were able to get 30 gowns, 600 bars of soap, 250 personal hand sanitizers, 1000 surgical masks, 15 gallons of medical grade disinfectant, and some KN95 respirators to the women at Elayn Hunt.
“Honestly, all I did was a bit of emailing and then picking up supplies, but the real work is being done by organizations like Voice of the Experienced (VOTE) and Operation Restoration on the daily. They could not be more deserving of recognition for the constant and courageous work they do.” Nguyen said. “I only felt empowered to do this when VOTE did something similar just last week or so for other prisons across the state and because Operation Restoration took the lead coordinating this effort with Dr. Kenney. Regardless, I was beyond humbled to be involved.”