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LBC senior makes PPE in GM plant during the summer

August 26, 2020 - Blythe White

For LBC senior Brendan Wiley, the summer of 2020 went a different direction than he had anticipated. The physiology majorwho plans to pursue emergency medicine as a careerhad intentions to spend the summer before his senior year in the emergency center of Beaumont Hospital, Troy, shadowing medical staff and working as a scribe in the emergency room. 

Brendan WileyBecause of COVID-19, the Beaumont Hospital system implemented staff layoffs and eliminated jobs in late April, due to financial losses. The combination of the highly infectious nature of COVID limiting personnel and the lack of job opportunities meant that the ER scribe position was no longer a possibility for Wiley.    

When considering his next steps, Wiley wanted to help people in whatever way he could. When he learned that front-line health care workers in his own family were facing shortages of personal protective equipment, yet treating patients with COVID-19, it sparked an idea.  

Wiley took a job with Aerotek, a subcontractor at General Motors, which made PPE in GM’s decommissioned Warren transmission plant. His role was on the assembly line, constructing medical grade N95 masks and face shields. He used several machines that would construct mask outlines and cut materials, then he was responsible for quality inspection and labeling masks and shields for shipment. General Motors reports that it has produced around 1.5 million masks per month, between N95s and surgical masks, since early April 2020. 

Brendan Wiley, in protective gear, holds up a mask in the GM plant in which he worked this summerWhen reflecting on his job, Wiley says, “I viewed the job as more of a calling than just a resume-building experience.” It was a way to contribute to alleviate some of the difficulties faced by front-line workers and fight the virus.  

About GM’s role in producing medical equipment, Wiley has gained an even more positive view and recognizes the importance of the community coming together against COVID-19. “It shows that everyone can play a role, strengthening our ability to promote positive public health standards. The diversified professional backgrounds that come together in designing, manufacturing, and distributing these lifesaving products is critical to the health and welfare of the general public and those combatting this non-discriminatory virus. 

Wiley will finish his degree in physiology in Spring 2021, serving as an undergraduate learning assistant in LB 145 in the fall and spring, then attend the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine to pursue emergency medicine. He is grateful for the experience and connections he made this summer.  


For a glimpse into the making of a non-medical grade mask, watch this video by CNBC