Huntington Brothers Use 3-D Printer to Produce PPE for Valley Health Workforce

Stuck at home with a 3-D printer and lots of extra time on their hands, two Huntington brothers have taken a unique and innovative approach to the ongoing demand for medical-grade personal protective equipment (PPE).

For the past few weeks, Nate and Samuel Bowen, ages 14 and 11, have been working hard from the confines of their Huntington home to design, print and donate medical-grade face shields to healthcare providers in the community, Valley Health Systems included among those recipients.

The oldest brother Nate is deeply familiar with 3-D printing technologies and has been the driving force behind the project. Shield production itself is an involved process, requiring much more than the flip of a switch on Nate’s 3-D printer.

Through each phase, Nate has been collaborating with institutions and businesses locally and beyond state borders in order to get much-needed PPE to organizations like Valley Health.

Mentors from Marshall University’s Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI) assisted with the initial design and development of Nate’s shield template. Following the prototype stage, the fourteen-year-old was tasked with sourcing highly sought-after material suitable for medical-grade PPE. Research ultimately led Nate to an unsuspecting infant safety gate manufacturer based in Georgia, that agreed to supply the necessary materials.

Production is a slow and steady process, requiring round the clock attention and adversity amidst inevitable hiccups. So far, Nate and his younger brother Samuel have donated upwards of 40 shields with plans to more than double that quantity within the next week.

The Bowens’ father, Thomas, explained that for Nate and Samuel, seeing first-hand how their hard work is being applied in the clinical setting has been one of the most rewarding and encouraging parts of the experience.

When the family arrived at Valley Health’s East Huntington health center to donate masks last week, they were provided with a guided tour of select clinical areas inside the facility. They also had the opportunity to meet some of the faces that will be protected behind their shields.

Recalling their recent experience at Valley Health, Mr. Bowen said, “Nate and my younger son Samuel really connected with the story of how Valley Health serves underserved populations in the community and decided this was an organization they want to continue to support.”

As a federally qualified community health center with a strong footprint in the Tri-State region, Valley Health has been at the forefront of addressing community needs during the Coronavirus pandemic.

While patient interaction at Valley Health is largely restricted to telehealth platforms at this time, there are still instances where patients and staff must meet face-to-face. Screening for COVID-19 is a particular situation where that scenario holds true.

“Our goal is to remain highly accessible to patients during this unprecedented time while also taking the necessary precautions to keep our staff and other patients safe,” said Valley Health’s Chief Quality Officer Brett Wellman. “We feel very grateful to have young, proactive community members like the Bowen brothers supporting us in those safety efforts and working hard to protect those on the frontline. These two have much to be proud of.”

Valley Health continues to offer testing for COVID-19, now available onsite at select Valley Health locations across the region. Patients must call 304-399-3358 to schedule a telehealth visit with a Valley Health provider prior to screening and be directed by that provider to proceed to a testing location most convenient to them.