In the Community: Department of Surgery supports the community during Pandemic

Rupak Mukherjee PhD organized blood drives to support urgent need in the community.
Rupak Mukherjee, Ph.D. donating blood during one of the blood drives he helped organize.

Department-organized blood drives answer urgent need

The Red Cross faces a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during the coronavirus outbreak. Prabhakar Baliga, M.D., chair of the Department of Surgery, sent an email to the department to help raise awareness to the urgent need, noting that in the week of March 16 over 40 drives were cancelled in SC and the Red Cross was expecting cancellations to continue to increase.

Dr. Baliga asked anyone who can donate blood to consider giving at any of the local donation sites. Rupak Mukherjee, Ph.D., associate professor in the division of cardiothoracic surgery, regularly helps coordinate and recruit blood donors for the HinduTemple of Charleston-sponsored American Red Cross blood drives. Dr. Mukherjee encouraged members of the MUSC-community to participate in the March 20 and May 30 blood drives at the Temple, or any other on-campus and community-based drives.

Their calls for action were answered.

“We had very successful blood drives,” said Mukherjee. “Most of the donors were MUSC faculty, staff and students from the College of Medicine.” In fact, the March 20 drive at the Temple collected 36 units of blood, exceeding the target of 28 set by the American Red Cross. During the drives at the Hindu Temple, donors are treated to home-cooked Indian Food, which Mukherjee also helps coordinate to further incentivize donations. “Members from MUSC who donated – either at the Temple, on campus,or at their community donation center, contributed immeasurably to the public health of our community,” said Mukherjee. “If you haven’t donated yet, please consider donation as the need is great.”

Daily wellness routines help manage stress during COVID-19

As part of the Department’s Health and Wellness initiative, Colleen Cloud, program manager in the Center for Cellular Therapy, offered to make it easy for faculty, staff and residents stay active even in times of high stress, anxiety and isolation by sending an early morning email with a new and invigorating workout. Feedback was very positive. Colleen says every day she receives emails from people telling her how much they appreciate her workouts.   

In addition to Colleen’s exercise workouts to reduce stress and anxiety, Katherine Morgan, M.D., chief in the division of Gastrointestinal Surgery, provided some calm through weekly reflection emails to faculty and staff covering topics of community, stress reduction and how to even enjoy this pause or reset in the world. “Don’t be hard on yourself to maximize this time for accomplishment or to clean every closet (unless you want to). Choose opportunities that feel good to you in this time,” she writes. 

Heroes Need Masks: Grassroots effort gains momentum

A grassroots campaign to collect personal protective equipment to medical professionals started on March 17 with a post on NextDoor, by MUSC cardiothoracic surgeon Sanford Zeigler, M.D. explaining to his neighbors the urgent need for personal protective equipment.

A few days later, Dr. Zeigler partnered with his brother, a marketing strategist, to develop a crowdsourcing platform with a blog and social media campaign #HeroesNeedMasks, asking the public’s support to collect and deliver protective gear to drop-off sites across the Lowcountry. Within a week, Heroes Need Masks’ efforts have added more than 1000 N95 masks, 2500 surgical masks, 8000 gloves, hundreds of face shields and much more to MUSC’s PPE supply. 

Heroes Need Masks continues to distribute masks to essential workers and high risk individuals who may not have access to them, and are collecting halyard wrap to create reusable, washable high efficiency masks.

As COVID-19  cases in the lowcountry increased,  Zeigler and his team are building awareness campaigns to help stop the spread of COVID.If you would like to learn more or volunteer, please visit or contact Dr. Zeigler at