Do you have an iPhone or iPad lying around you’re not using? Thinking of upgrading? Time to take that (gently) used device and donate it to someone who could really use it right now.
A group of second-year medical students from the Keck School of Medicine of USC are collecting smartphones, tablet computers and laptops — anything with internet connectivity and a camera, made by Apple or any other brand — and donating them to LAC+USC Medical Center and other Los Angeles hospitals. They, in turn, will distribute them to patients who are infected with COVID-19 and who may be isolated from family and friends.
A drive-through donation box has been set up and will be open Thursday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Biggy parking structure’s parking attendant booth, 1334 Biggy Street, on the Health Sciences Campus. Check out the flyer for more info. Those who can’t make it can fill out an online donation form, and the L.A. group will come pick up the device.
Donors are encouraged to wipe all data from their devices before donating. Here are step-by-step instructions on how to do so.
Janine Cadet, who’s helping to lead the local effort, says isolation and loneliness were challenges patients in a hospital setting faced even before the coronavirus pandemic.
“Imagine: You can’t have visitors, you can’t have your family and friends there to support you,” said Cadet, who has researched the health effects of isolation and loneliness of patients. “We wanted to combat that by bringing in these devices so people can stay connected. We’re hoping that this will benefit outcomes and help people recover more quickly.”
The other Keck School students involved are Katherine Bick, Neal Nathan, Emmy Jin, and Kristina van de Goor. All are from the Class of 2022.
Cadet said the group’s goal is to donate anywhere from 300 to 500 devices to local hospitals, clinics and affiliated partners who are treating COVID-19 patients. USC’s Global Medicine program has donated about two dozen unused iPads from the department.
Cadet says the group’s first donation to LAC+USC will come next Monday. They’re also working with Adventist Health White Memorial and Olive View-UCLA Medical Center.
Bick says in addition to the isolation patients feel while undergoing treatment for the virus, they often lack someone close to them to help decide on treatments and other issues.
“Involving family in medical decisions is important,” she said. “That has really been lost during the pandemic.”
The national program, Connect for COVID, has raised nearly $6,000 (out of a goal of $10,000) on a GoFundMe page. That initiative was started by two brothers: Sunny Sandhu and Manraj Singh. According to a story in TIME last month, Singh. Sandhu, a senior at Princeton University (where Cadet went as an undergrad), had to self-isolate because of possible exposure to COVID-19.
Though physically alone, Sandhu was pleasantly surprised by how connected video chatting made him feel to friends and family around the world. But he quickly realized he “was fortunate enough to have a smart device in my hands [and] many others weren’t.”
After that experience, Sandhu and Singh, a consultant with Deloitte, started asking friends who worked in the medical field if they could use donated smart devices to help patients connect with their families. They got an overwhelming response, and forged partnerships with medical students in cities including Baltimore, New York, Miami, Boston and Washington, D.C.
“Not having a smartphone isn’t a human rights issue,” Singh says. “But dying alone, without your loved ones in your corner, that is.”
Add Los Angeles to that list of cities where donation programs are spreading.
— By Landon Hall