The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the University of Detroit’s dental education programs earlier this year. Reopening them depended, in part, on securing adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep the students safe. Given the worldwide shortage of PPE, that was not an easy challenge to overcome.

At the same time, a group of employees at Promess Inc. were assembling an ad hoc team of management, assembly and mechanical engineering personnel with the goal of finding a way to produce PPE for local hospitals, first responders, dentists, traveling nurses, homeless shelters and nursing homes in Southeastern Michigan. That was not part of their regular skill set as manufacturers of high-tech assembly systems and components, but they were determined to make it happen. And, with the support of Promess management, they did.

By the end of March, the team had developed the PPE designs and put together the systems needed to produce them in quantity at Promess’ manufacturing facility in Brighton, MI. The first products went to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Howell, MI, Children’s Hospital in Detroit, several Brighton-area dentists’ offices, a group of local traveling nurses, the Independence Township, MI, fire department and an assisted living facility in Flint in April.

Challenge, Meet Solution

The early Promess PPE project was written up in a number of trade magazines and a local newspaper, the Livingston Daily, which is where Mike Pyatenko, DDS, saw it late in May. An assistant professor at the University of Detroit Mercy Dental School, Dr. Pyatenko immediately saw an opportunity to help get his students back to work.

“The face shields Promess was producing then really caught my eye,” Dr. Pyatenko explained, “so I reached out to Promess to see if they could help us. They responded with some samples for us to test and then supplied enough to equip 288 of our students, which will get them through a whole semester.”

In all, Promess has donated 320 face shields to the program, which are being used by first- and second-year students. The full PPE suite consists of medical-grade gown, single or double face masks, goggles or eyeglasses with side shields, gloves and the Promess-made face shields.

All students are trained in the proper donning and doffing of their PPE. The face shields are cleaned with approved surface disinfectants between uses to prolong their service life. Dr. Pyatenko expects the face shields to remain serviceable for an entire semester.

“Needless to say, the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry is very appreciative that Promess was willing to help us remove a significant stumbling block toward our students’ education and safety,” he said.

The University of Detroit Mercy Dental School has been educating dentists and hygienists for more than 86 years. The program’s graduates are socially conscious, ethical and evidence-based critical thinkers who are practice ready. The school is dedicated to serving the Detroit and surrounding com-munities through its clinic and outreach programs. These include a senior outreach, a clinic at University Health Center at the Detroit Medical Center, and a mobile clinic serving elementary school students.