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SLU Staff Member, Chinese-American Community Rally to Protect Health Care Workers


As the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) began to impact the St. Louis region, members of the area’s Chinese-American community, including Saint Louis University professor,  Donghua Tao, Ph.D., jumped into action to help those on the front lines of the fight against the virus.

SLU professor Donghua Tao, Ph.D. (right) joins another volunteer and a staff member from SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, to present donations of PPEs from St. Louis's Chinese-American community.

SLU professor Donghua Tao, Ph.D. (right) and Ruth Miller, operation manager of the Chinese Education and Cultural Center of St. Louis (CECC) (left) with the "United, We are Strong! St. Louis" campaign present 2,000 surgical face masks to SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital's Lori Winkler, injury prevention nurse coordinator/Safe Kids St. Louis (center) on Wednesday, April 1. Photo by Minghui Zhang, President of SLMCS.

Tao joined her fellow members of the Chinese Education and Culture Center (CECC) and the Chinese Service Center (CSC) in St. Louis launched the “United, We are Strong! St. Louis” campaign on March 19, to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to local frontline health care workers, police officers, firefighters, and other first responders.

To date the campaign has donated 6,000 Level 2 surgical masks to three local hospitals including SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital. Two thousand masks have also been delivered to SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, and 2,000 to SSM St. Mary’s Hospital as of Friday, April 3.

More than 20,000 masks are en route to St. Louis, with 20,000 more on-order and expected to arrive in the near future.

The campaign will donate these masks to 13 local hospitals including Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital and SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital.

“I deeply believe in SLU's values and Jesuit mission of community service and care to the ill and needy,” Tao, assistant director for information services in the Medical Center Library, explained. “My involvement with this effort is greatly in conjunction with the University's values and Jesuit mission.”

“We all hope the community where we live strong and supporting our frontline health care workers can help our local community receive necessary health care, which help those needed to fight COVID-19,” she continued. “Our thought is, ‘Let us work together to take care of our own community!’”

Tao has been involved with the CECC since her kids began taking classes offered by the St. Louis Modern Chinese School (SLMCS). The school is part of CECC.

She went on to join CECC’s management team in June 2018, taking on a role as principal of SLMCS in charge of Chinese education. Other SLU staff members, including Linghua Xiao, business manager for the Center for Interprofessional Education (IPE) in the School of Medicine, also volunteer with the groups.

SLMCS and CECC host many school activities, including Chinese New Year, Chinese Cultural Day at the Missouri Botanical Garden, the school’s graduation ceremony and end-of-semester gala, and performances in local communities, including senior living facilities and nursing homes, along with other programs. Tao has volunteered as a class parent and in other roles with the organization’s efforts in the past.

“We have a very united management team,” Tao said. “We heard about the need for PPEs from doctors at SSM Health SLU hospital, and decided to fulfill that urgent need as soon as possible to protect our frontline health care workers.”

The push has netted nearly $80,000 in donations as of Sunday, April 5, with the funds going toward the purchase of PPEs. More than 300 donors have contributed. The STL Nanjing Sister City Committee and friends from the Washington University’s Chinese Alumni Association have also helped the campaign’s purchasing team in sourcing medical masks overseas.  

The committee seeks to further expand its donations to include medium/small sized clinics, service providers, the St. Louis City and County COVID-19 response team, and community organizations that may lack resource access compared to larger hospital systems.

A staff member from SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital (left) accepts donated PPEs from a volunteer with the "United! We are Strong St. Louis" campaign.

A staff member from SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital (left) accepts a donation of masks from Yimin Zhu, president of CSC and vice chair of the CECC board (right)Photo by Min Liu, CSC board member of CSC and community outreach director for CECC

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Saint Louis University is a Catholic, Jesuit institution that values academic excellence, life-changing research, compassionate health care, and a strong commitment to faith and service. Founded in 1818, the University fosters the intellectual and character development of more than 13,000 students on campuses in St. Louis and Madrid, Spain. Building on a legacy of now more than 200 years, Saint Louis University continues to move forward with an unwavering commitment to a higher purpose, a greater good.

Story by Amelia Flood, University Marketing and Communications.