One of the defining images of 2020 will be that of people wearing facemasks.
With the impact of COVID-19 being felt worldwide, facemasks have become one of the most important ways of ‘flattening the curve’ – but are also a high-demand item that many people are struggling to get hold of.
For Dorothy Egan, a member of TCS’ Healthcare Domain Practice, the chilling evidence of that is right in front of her. She works remotely out of Boston, Massachusetts – one of the states hit hardest by the COVID-19 virus, with a death toll already in excess of 3,500. In the city of Boston, you won’t see a single soul not wearing a mask when you leave your front door – if you see anybody at all.
“What's super frightening about living in Boston is that it’s been a ghost town for ten weeks,” she says.
The reason for this is the risk of infection – something Dorothy is keenly aware of because of her background as a former Infection Preventionist Nurse.
“Before I joined TCS, I’d worked in epidemiology, right on the front line,” she explains. “I worked as a former Infection Preventionist Nurse with immunocompromised HIV patients, and during the H1N1 epidemic I was operational on the front line with three different hospitals. Right now, I also work on the weekends as a Pediatric Nurse with children who are especially vulnerable to infection.”
Her expertise on infection prevention and epidemiology has already seen her contributing to the fight against COVID-19.
Even after this current crisis has passed, Dorothy knows it won’t be the last time global organizations like TCS are going tested with similar challenges – and she’s impressed with how seriously TCS is treating this problem.“
The next run of this will be tricky,” she says. “Many workplaces are going to need antibody testing, and we’ll need monitoring of the workplace to quickly identify infection. This current crisis is unprecedented, but there are systems in place, and a methodology of response that we can build on and improve.”
Of course, as a former front-line nurse, and still working in pediatric nursing at the weekends, Dorothy’s first instinct had been to jump in and help.
“It's hard to see all this going on around you and not want to be helping out on the front-line, but my kids won't let me – right now. If circumstances arrive, and if it's my purpose to, I'll happily do what I can – but in the meantime, I look for every little opportunity to be of service.”
“While working in my nursing role, I was sad to see the body of somebody who had passed away from COVID-19 – and then it struck me that the children I work with are especially vulnerable, and they need to be protected.”
This is where Dorothy’s background in infectious diseases allowed her to recognize a further opportunity to be of value to her community.
“I was looking for anything I could do on the periphery – and then the organizers of a sewing course I’d taken in Boston sent out patterns for washable facemask covers – where the filter goes inside, and the cover can be reused.”
“I took that concept and then did my research – learning how to make a protective mask, and learning quite a lot about their effectiveness, and why proper masks are so important. Did you know a bandana used as a mask actually lets in 38% of potentially infectious materials?”
“Only an N95 mask has been FDA approved to keeps germs out, which is why they’re so important for front-line healthcare workers.”
In the absence of N95 facemasks, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have advocated the use of cloth masks just like the ones Dorothy planned on creating – so by donating them to hospital staff, drivers, and other healthcare team, it means the CDC and WHO-compliant N95 masks can be reserved for those with direct contact with patients – helping prevent the spread of the infection.
Working in pediatrics, Dorothy realized that many of the commercially available masks, or the patterns for those that could be sewn, are less than optimal for children – so she demonstrated the best of TCS by using a methodology similar to our Business 4.0 framework to research ways to improve things.
“I’m the sort of person who goes to FDA meetings for fun, and watches the White House briefings rather than the man at the podium,” she explains – which is why once she’d identified the challenge posed by kids with poorly-fitting masks, she started using design methodology and experimentation to solve that problem.
“I started by sewing masks, but was struggling to get more comfortable elastic. I changed that, and then started experimenting with different fits, and using different materials for the front and back. For example, I make my masks super thin at the back so they don’t break the seal around the nose and mouth, which the CDC has told us is super important for making them effecting.”
“I’m constantly experimenting. Next, I’ll be looking for a 3D printer to try a different approach!”
Continuous improvement and innovation are cornerstones of the TCS culture – not just in how we serve our customers, but also in how we support people and communities in tackling challenges like this COVID-19 pandemic. More so than that, though, Dorothy demonstrates an alignment of purpose and a commitment to the community that is shared by our employee family all over the world.
“When I was interviewing for this role, I’d chosen TCS because it was important to me to work for a company that was so deeply involved in Corporate Social Responsibility,” she explains. “Now I can see all those commitments being put to the test, I couldn’t be more grateful to be with this company.”
“I am so impressed and humbled by the true commitment to humanity we’ve witnessed from the leaders at TCS. You don't often see that from corporations of this size. For me to be able to feel that – from my position in the team, having been with TCS for only eight months, and working in my office here in Boston – is incredible. I can feel the presence of our leaders even from another country, and their spirit is filtering down in every town hall they have, every video they post – it's authentic.”
True leadership emerges from all tiers of an organization, though – and Dorothy’s role in helping flatten the curve is deeply appreciated.