Med student makes hundreds of masks for hometown, fellow students

Hannah Morgan's masks

June 4, 2020

Second-year medical student Hannah Morgan mentioned her love for arts and crafts on her med school application, long before anyone anticipated just how advantageous that could be.

“I remember the College of Medicine asking a question about what we do for fun or to reduce stress. … One of the things I mentioned was anything to do with arts and crafts,” Morgan said. “In addition to my passion for crafts, I am passionate about preventive health.” 

In April – in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and new CDC guidelines urging people to wear masks or face coverings – Morgan’s passions combined to jumpstart an extracurricular project.

It started off as an effort to provide masks for her hometown and the local Tallahassee community. The project quickly grew to include med students – not just at FSU, but UF as well.

“I reached out to my hometown of Perry. It is a rural community and of disadvantaged status and many live below the poverty level,” she said. “The masks are free to everyone in our local communities. Donations are kindly accepted, and all donations go back to supplies to continue to make masks for those in need of them.” 

Hannah Morgan
Hannah Morgan

Morgan is set to complete more than 900 masks by the second week of June. She started the project in mid-April while juggling the final block of the first-year curriculum. Since the beginning of May, she’s been dedicated to the project full-time.

She’s donated to employees at various organizations in Perry and other community members.

After posting on social media and reaching out to FSU’s medical and PA students, the project took off. Second- and third-year medical students across the country have been taking or preparing for their respective portions of the United States Medical Licensing Examination known as Step 1 and Step 2.

“I received notification from [a second-year medical student] that masks may be required for their Step exam,” she said. “I then made a post asking them to contact me if they were in need of a mask, and they responded.”

She didn’t stop there.

“A couple days before our final I had the idea to email and ask the UF College of Medicine if they would be in need of masks,” said Morgan. “I contacted Dr. Patrick Duff and he requested 300 masks for his students as they prepared to take their Step 1 and Step 2 exams.”

In a span of three weeks, Morgan was able to send UF medical students nearly all of the requested masks.

“I thought this was a remarkably altruistic and completely unsolicited gesture on Hannah’s part,” said Duff, associate dean for student affairs at the UF College of Medicine. “She essentially provided enough masks for our entire student body. Not only were the masks well-designed, they were produced in Gator colors as opposed to Seminole colors. Hannah is quite an extraordinary person and a wonderful representative of the FSU College of Medicine.”

Morgan’s first mask took an hour. Now, with the help of her team including her mother, brother and other family and friends, it takes less than 10 minutes.

Most of the masks so far are made out of cotton t-shirts.

“All cotton pattern material was selling off the shelf! But I had these shirts available,” she said.

With countless Amazon orders and trips to fabric and craft stores, Morgan has been able to produce masks for less than $2.50 apiece. Her materials include cotton t-shirts, fabric, sheets, crafting wire, craft pipe cleaners, nose bridge strips, cutting mats, fabric scissors and other items.

She uses a sewing machine she purchased three years ago to tailor her husband’s Army uniform. Through Hannah Morganhis involvement with the project, Morgan was inspired to create masks with a clear window to assist people with hearing loss.

“While tending to my husband – he was on military orders as an officer in charge of a COVID-19 testing site – I interacted with many soldiers who have been in combat and have some hearing loss,” Morgan said. “They would look at my lips as I would speak to better understand me. I then realized masks have created a communication barrier to those who have hearing impairment. I have all the supplies to now make masks with a clear window so those who rely on lip reading may be able to communicate better during this crisis.”

Morgan is perfecting her prototype and plans to begin donating them soon.

“I started with a goal of 150 [masks] and matched it. Then it moved to 300, then 500,” she said. “I am now at a goal of 1,000. But ultimately, I will stop making masks when the need is complete, or we continue back to school in the fall, whichever is sooner.”