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The spread of COVID-19 has completely changed our way of life. Daily routines have been completely altered, and this is especially true for students at the University of Kentucky's healthcare colleges. Many students are working tirelessly to combat the ongoing pandemic and working alongside mentors and colleagues to provide COVID-19 testing, answer public health questions, and serve however they can. Students at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy (UKCOP) have found yet another way to help, which includes increasing access to sanitizing products.

The recent sanitizer shortage led the College of Pharmacy to collaborate with UK HealthCare, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, and the James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits. The goal of the project is to provide sanitizer to healthcare workers, first responders, and essential employees who need it most.

This month, UKCOP student pharmacists Chad Venn, Conner Ball, Alex Nilges, Matthew Westling, and Amelia Winters and faculty member Clark Kebodeaux assisted in the repackaging of sanitizer provided by the James Beam Institute into suitable containers that could be easily distributed and used throughout hospitals.

Alex Nilges, a third-year student pharmacist, cites her training at UKCOP as a primary reason she and other students are eager to be a part of this team. She is excited to be able to contribute to the work of first responders, leaning into #TeamKentucky.

"I think it's important that we use our resources to focus on getting critical supplies to those who need it most," she said. "Pharmacists, student pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians are particularly equipped to prepare and process compounds like this. Pharmacists are on the frontlines helping patients every day, but they’re often forgotten when we celebrate healthcare workers. The fact that these supplies will go to the healthcare teams, including our pharmacy teams, in Kentucky’s hospitals makes me prouder to be a part of Team Kentucky."

Clark Kebodeaux, PharmD, an associate professor at the College of Pharmacy, worked alongside Nilges and others to repackage 250 gallons of hand sanitizer that first arrived in dark brown bourbon bottles. Kebodeaux emphasized the importance of the contributions that made the project possible, noting the collaborative nature of Kentuckians.

"I want to make sure we recognize Jim Beam and UK HealthCare for their efforts and supplies," Kebodeaux said, "Our role in this is to help where we can and get [the sanitizer] in a form where people can use it. We’ll be here to help for as long as it takes."

The James B. Institute for Kentucky Spirits supported the efforts, receiving donations of 250 gallons of ethanol from Beam Suntory and glycerin from Alltech. An instructional video of the process will soon be made available to interested distillers, or they can contact UK College of Engineering professor Brad Berron for additional information on the formulation and process.

Craig Martin, professor and associate dean of the College, hopes to use the distinctive skill set of pharmacists to help combat the shortage in other regions of the Commonwealth.

“We’re hoping to continue to help supply first responders in Kentucky with what they need. Our research labs have donated PPE, and our students are volunteering at the Kentucky COVID-19 Hotline and COVID testing sites. Many of our faculty and alumni are practicing pharmacists who are working in communities to keep people well, offering curbside and home delivery to ensure people have access to their medications. We’re all working around the clock to make sure Kentuckians can stay safe and healthy,” said Martin.

We wish to remember and honor those who inhabited this Commonwealth before the arrival of the Europeans. Briefly occupying these lands were the Osage, Wyndott tribe, and Miami peoples. The Adena and Hopewell peoples, who are recognized by the naming of the time period in which they resided here, were here more permanently. Some of their mounds remain in the Lexington area, including at UK’s Adena Park.

In more recent years, the Cherokee occupied southeast Kentucky, the Yuchi southwest Kentucky, the Chickasaw extreme western Kentucky and the Shawnee central Kentucky including what is now the city of Lexington. The Shawnee left when colonization pushed through the Appalachian Mountains. Lower Shawnee Town ceremonial grounds are still visible in Greenup County.

We honor the first inhabitants who were here, respect their culture, and acknowledge the presence of their descendants who are here today in all walks of life including fellow pharmacists and healthcare professionals.