When Michigan Medicine called for donations of personal protective equipment, a group of University of Michigan professors of Chinese heritage was among the first to respond.

Leveraging its professional and personal networks, the group — U-M Association of Chinese Professors — has donated more than 36,000 items, such as medical masks, gloves and gowns.

“More needed medical supplies are on their way to Ann Arbor from China,” said Duxin Sun, the Searle Professor in Pharmaceutical Sciences and president of the UMACP, a nonprofit organization coordinating resources from the United States and China for this donation drive.

“Emotionally, I feel COVID-19 hit me twice,” said Dawen Cai, professor of cell and developmental biology at the Medical School and a member of UMACP.

“The first wave hit me when COVID-19 affected China last year, where I was born and raised. I also have friends and family living there. And now, it landed on my shores.

“It is so hard not to be able to do anything after seeing my colleagues in Michigan Medicine who are working around the clock to treat patients.”

Cai and 130 U-M professors of Chinese heritage have contributed at least $120,000 to buy personal protective equipment that will be donated to Michigan Medicine. In addition, they reached out to their networks in China, raising more than $40,000 in five days from U-M alumni in China.

Hundreds of small shipments from all across China are in transit to Ann Arbor, mostly from U-M alumni, collaborators and even parents of U-M students living in China. One U-M research partner — Beijing Institute of Collaborative Innovation — has pledged more than $13,000 worth of medical supplies.

Virus knows no borders, and global pandemic needs global response, Sun said.

“We are thrilled to see the significant international effort here for Michigan, thanks to our partners and a strong alumni network in China.”

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