NSHE Institutions Lend Help to State, Communities During Pandemic

LAS VEGAS – The Nevada System of Higher Education’s (NSHE’s) eight institutions have risen to help their local communities and state during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

Whether it’s students delivering food to the elderly, institutions loaning or donating urgently needed medical supplies, including ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) to first responders and hospitals, or professors sharing their knowledge with the media and the world to help us all better understand the crisis, NSHE’s eight institutions are helping Nevada get through this historic event.

Gov. Steve Sisolak praised the help being delivered to the state and local communities by NSHE’s students, faculty and staff.

“I am proud of the work that all our NSHE institutions have done during the COVID-19 crisis to ensure all our higher education students are fully supported and can continue the important learning process,” said Gov. Steve Sisolak. “Truckee Meadows Community College is lending two ambulances to the Reno Fire Department, and NSHE institutions are loaning ventilators and donating personal protective equipment to local hospitals and first responders who are in critical need of these supplies.”

Chancellor Thom Reilly echoed the governor’s thoughts.

“As Fred Rogers once famously said, in times of crisis we should ‘look for the helpers.’ We don’t have to look far at NSHE as Nevada’s public higher education community has rushed to the aid of our local communities and state,” said Chancellor Thom Reilly.

“Most importantly, our institutions are still remotely educating more than 100,000 students that will allow thousands of degrees and certificates to be conferred this Spring. The NSHE graduating class of 2020 can then immediately enter the workforce, which is especially important in the medical and health sciences sector where they are urgently needed,” Reilly added.

Board of Regents Chair Jason Geddes said he was proud of the work being done by NSHE’s faculty, staff and students during this extraordinary time.

“I am incredibly proud and thankful for not only those of us who are tangibly helping deal with the pandemic, but for everyone who has adopted to remote instruction and working remotely,” Geddes said. “We all have a role to play in mitigating the spread of COVID-19, whether it is social distancing or helping our community partners in this difficult time.”

NSHE’s institutions have all rushed to the aid of hospitals, first responders, and our communities and state. Here is a list of some of their efforts.

College of Southern Nevada (CSN)

  • CSN’s Dental Faculty Practice is providing dental services for emergency patients while many private dental offices remain closed.
  • CSN is donating N-95 masks, other masks, isolation gowns, sterile gloves, and other PPE to local hospitals and first responders that are in critical need, including University Police Services, Henderson Hospital, University Medical Center and Dignity Health.
  • CSN’s Cardiorespiratory Sciences Program is loaning three ventilators to Henderson Hospital.

Desert Research Institute (DRI)

  • DRI’s population health and data science team, who are leading the research behind the Healthy Nevada Project, are working to help Renown Health assess the risks, possible exposure, and presence of COVID-19 symptoms using data from consenting Nevadans who are participating in the Health Nevada Project.
  • Utilizing the Health Nevada Project’s participant survey infrastructure, the research team at DRI, led by Joseph Grzymski, Ph.D., are collecting data from Healthy Nevada Project participants. Survey questions address items such as recent domestic and international travel, attendance of large public events, and if study participants are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, such as a fever. These data can then be used to understand Nevada’s broader population level risks in the coming weeks and months.
  • Additionally, DRI is working to help national research teams at personal genetics company Helix evaluate the efficacy of an at-home testing approach for the detection of COVID-19. The at-home test would require a simple saliva sample, rather than using the current nasal swabbing technique.
  • Tamara Wall, Ph.D., the Deputy Director of the Western Regional Climate Center based at DRI’s Reno campus, is awaiting approval to begin a social science research study aimed at understanding people’s COVID-19 experiences and stories.

Great Basin College (GBC)

  • GBC accelerated the nursing program for its second-year students so they can graduate early in April in Elko, Pahrump, and Winnemucca to help alleviate the shortage of nurses in Nevada’s rural communities.
  • Paramedic students will be graduating early in April to help fill the void that we are potentially facing with EMS.
  • GBC is donating PPE to local hospitals and first responders that are in critical need, including Desert View Hospital, Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital, and University Police Services.

Nevada State College (NSC)

  • NSC is focused on finishing nursing clinical experiences through simulation and labs to prepare our Bachelor of Nursing students to graduate this spring, pass their Nursing Boards and enter the workforce. NSC is adding another cohort of approximately 48 students into the nursing program.
  • NSC has worked with the City of Henderson and the Southern Nevada Health District to serve as a location for COVID-19 “drive through” testing.
  • NSC will be providing any PPE reserves to local hospitals.
  • Graduate students in speech language pathology are continuing to provide telehealth services to adult clients through the speech language pathology clinic under the full supervision of NSC faculty.
  • A number of volunteer efforts have been undertaken by students and faculty. For example, Dr. Hon-Vu Duong continues to operate an eye clinic. A part-time student in nursing owns a meal delivery company and is delivering free meals to seniors and at-risk groups. Faculty Senate Chair Serge Ballif and his wife, Jenny, are creating educational videos for kids as part of Jenny’s Science Mom video series; they’re calling it “QuaranTIME” and they’re free to the community at large.

Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC)

  • TMCC’s Nursing and Allied Health programs have donated PPE to area hospitals and first responders, including the Washoe County Health District, Northern Nevada Medical Center, Quail Surgical and Pain Management Center, UNR Family Health Clinic, Community Health Alliance, and Renown Health.
  • TMCC is lending the use of two ambulances from its EMS program to the Reno Fire Department.
  • Faculty and staff at the William N. Pennington Applied Technology Center are gathering materials to start 3D printing PPE masks. The cost of production is roughly $1/mask. Faculty will work in shifts using cautionary measures and abiding by prevention protocols.
  • In addition to providing support to our healthcare partners in response to COVID-19, TMCC has also donated the time and expertise of its in-house videographer to assist non-profit colleagues in recording and delivering critical messaging to their constituents while abiding by social distancing guidelines.
  • TMCC is using its online and social media presence to communicate to its students and the community, as a whole. To date, they have compiled numerous mental health and social resources on its website and Facebook page.  They are also responding to multiple media requests seeking to understand the psychological impacts of this crisis, as well as how the community can support each other and our children.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV)

UNLV School of Medicine (SOM)

  • The UNLV School of Medicine and its clinical arm, UNLV Medicine, began providing curbside COVID-19 testing for Southern Nevadans on March 23rd. More than 570 tests have been administered to individuals who meet the CDC’s criteria to receive a test. Testing by appointment only is going smoothly. Capacity has increased each day. The call center is receiving more than 2,000 calls per day but are working through the backlog thanks to medical student volunteers who are staying into the evening verbally screening patients over the telephone.
  • Additionally, the SOM Community Engagement team has been matching the student volunteer workforce with community groups needing help.

SOM student volunteers are helping:

  • The Curbside Testing Call Center. Verbally screening each caller to see if they meet the CDC’s guidelines for needing a COVID-19 test.
  • The cities of Las Vegas and Henderson, where medical students are screening and doing intake on the children at day care facilities set up and run by the cities for their first responders and mandatory employees.
  • Distribution and delivery of groceries to seniors and those in quarantine.
  • Assisting Three Square Food Bank in packing and distributing food at 40 different drive through food dispersal locations.
  • Donating blood. There is a huge shortage of blood here and in California due to social distancing.


  • The PRACTICE is a community mental health clinic focused on state-of-the-art training and quality mental health service. The PRACTICE is providing “telemental health services” to rural Nevada. The PRACTICE transitioned all of its care to telehealth, including individual and group psychotherapy.
  • The PRACTICE also remains a resource to the community through our website and Facebook page where it has compiled numerous mental health and social resources. They are responding to multiple media requests seeking to understand the psychological impacts of this crisis, how to support each other and our children through it.
  • Finally, The PRACTICE has been a resource and advisor to other campus healthcare clinics and to community providers regarding how to quickly and competently transition to the telehealth care environment.

UNLV School of Dental Medicine (SDM)

  • Clinical Faculty at the SDM are working onsite to provide emergency dental services due to the closure of dental practices because of the corona virus.

UNLV School of Public Health

  • The School of Public Health has deployed several student interns to the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) is working on a much larger assist to help address the COVID-19 issue. The students are compiling data, conducting interviews, answering questions and assisting in many areas on the front line with SNHD. The School of Public Health also placed several interns with the UNLV SOM at the drive through clinic area, and there is a list of over 80 students who are willing to assist the SNHD with this event.
  • The faculty and staff have conducted many media interviews and written several articles on this issue. One article, by Assistant Professor in Epidemiology and Biostatistics Dr. Brian Labus, was turned into a learning module (via Actively Learn) for junior high school teachers.  This learning module is publicly available to educate teachers about COVID-19.
  • Labus, was appointed to the Governor’s Advisory Board addressing COVID-19 issues. Dr. Labus has completed more than 90 interviews, including with KNPR, Nevada Week, South China Morning Post, BBC, Nature, Forbes, Huffington Post, and NBC Universal.
  • The School of Public Health in collaboration with the SNHD hosted a live stream television show on Monday, March 30, 2020, entitled, COVID-19: A Discussion with the Public Health Experts. It included an hour-long discussion of infectious diseases; understanding the local, state and federal response; disease prevention techniques and why they work; and how to protect ourselves at home.  This show featured Dr. Francisco Sy and Dr. Brian Labus and was moderated by Dr. Shawn Gerstenberger, Dean of the School of Public Health.

Vice President for Research Office

  • The UNLV Research Office will be providing any PPE reserves to donations to hospitals.

University of Nevada, Reno (UNR)

  • University Honors student Jayde Powell created Shopping Angels to deliver groceries to COVID-19 at-risk populations. Volunteers pick up groceries and other shopping essentials and deliver them to those who can’t leave their homes.
  • Transformation of University Health primary care and mental health practices to provide telemedicine and telepsychiatric services for patients with acute and chronic medical and prescription needs.
  • Developed telephone triage protocols to make decisions about COVID-19 testing, including trained medical students providing telephone triage services in Elko.
  • COVID-19 testing conducted on high-risk patients by teams of volunteer, trained medical students who are taking samples with full PPE under attending physician supervision at our internal medicine and family medicine clinics.
  • Staffing of Washoe County Health Department and Regional Emergency Medical Services telephone triage of patients by trained medical students.
  • Extended staffing of Nevada State Public Health Laboratory testing services to provide full COVID-19 testing capacity for public health needs of the entire state.
  • Mobilization of substantial amounts of PPE from across the UNR campus—basic science labs, agriculture, art—to support University Health healthcare staff in their clinical duties.
  • Ramping up of several pilot projects in Microbiology and Immunology to study new approaches to COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment.
  • Membership by several senior UNR School of Medicine physicians and leaders on various crisis committees and task forces to guide local and state policy decisions.

Western Nevada College (WNC)

  • WNC’s nursing program is still training students remotely and some will head back to hospitals to do clinical hours and help the healthcare workforce that is under so much strain right now.
  • WNC EMS faculty has worked, and is continuing to work, with our State EMS Representatives, partnering affiliate agencies, staff, instructors, students, school administration, and Medical Director to put protocols in place to continue laboratory training on campus to meet national EMS Education Guidelines and has approximately 58 students ready in May to be certified to help with this pandemic, including students in Churchill County.  The protocols were developed by EMS faculty in conjunction with Medical Director Dr. Dale Carrison and adopted by the Nursing and Allied Health Department. WNC EMS has also secured a clinical site as mandated by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to complete internship requirements.
  • WNC’s Nursing and Allied Health Division and EMS programs are donating PPE reserves to affiliated first responder agencies to assist in keeping frontline responders safe.


The Nevada System of Higher Education, comprised of two doctoral-granting universities, a state college, four comprehensive community colleges and one environmental research institute, serves the educational and job training needs of Nevada. NSHE provides educational opportunities to more than 100,000 students and is governed by the Board of Regents.