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Local professor, student group raising funds for Chinese medical personnel battling coronavirus

Dr. Xiaoning Zhang

A St. Bonaventure University biology professor is leading a fundraising effort to help protect medical personnel in Wuhan, China, the center of the global coronavirus outbreak.

Dr. Xiaoning Zhang, director of the university’s biochemistry program, is partnering with the student disaster relief club BonaResponds and local nonprofit Positiveripples to raise money to purchase medical supplies that will be sent directly to Wuhan hospitals.

“We are global citizens, so I cannot say, ‘I’m safe here, so I don’t have to care about it.’” Zhang said in a phone interview Friday. “I think we really have to stand together to help those medical personnel so this [virus] can get controlled.”

The total number of coronavirus cases has now topped 75,000, multiple media outlets reported Friday following updates from Chinese officials. The official death toll is more than 2,200.

Zhang said medical personnel in Wuhan, where the vast majority of cases are still located, have been overwhelmed by the number of patients and are exposed to the greatest risk of infection. That’s why proceeds from the university’s fundraiser will be used to help send them hazmat suits, goggles, medical masks, gloves, breathing machines and other supplies.

Credit St. Bonaventure University
Dr. Xiaoning Zhang is a biology professor and director of St. Bonaventure University’s biochemistry program.

“In Bonaventure, we have a lot of pre-med students,” Zhang said. “One thing [that] really came to me was my students. If something happened just like that in the future [and] my students as medical personnel have to be there, I want them to be protected. So in that case, I really take it very personal.”

The coronavirus outbreak has made a doubly personal impact on Zhang because she’s originally from China. She said she’s been in constant contact with friends and family members in China fearing for their survival since the first cases of COVID-19, as the virus was officially named by the World Health Organization, were reported last month.

“For me, although I’m far away, but I feel like if I go back to China now, I may not be permitted to come back for a long time. So that’s going to jeopardize what I’m committed to do here. [That’s] not to mention many other businesses, they’re very international. China is very much involved with many different countries in development, in business, in many other things.”

Western New Yorkers in the St. Bonaventure University area can contribute to the fundraiser in-person through March 15 at donation boxes set up in the following locations:

  • De La Roche Hall, Room 103
  • Friedsam Library, Reference Desk
  • SBU Bookstore, Reilly Center
  • Murphy Building, First Amendment Lounge
  • Hopkins Hall, One Stop
  • Hickey Dining Hall
  • Swan Business Center, Atrium
  • Rehabilitation Today, 2416 Constitution Ave., Olean
  • Park and Shop, Front & Main streets, Olean
  • Tasty Time, 3143 West State Road, Allegany
  • Olean Medical Group, Purchasing and Receiving Office

Checks should be made payable to “Positive Ripples” with the note “for fighting the Coronavirus in Wuhan.”
Gift card raffle tickets for $1 each are available at the following locations and times:

  • Quick Center for the Arts reception desk, 12-4 p.m. daily until Feb. 26
  • Hickey Dining Hall, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Feb. 21, 24, 26
  • Reilly Center outside bookstore, 5-7 p.m. Feb. 26, before the men's basketball game vs. Duquesne

Zhang also set up a Facebook fundraiser for anyone wishing to donate online. After March 15, the proceeds will be given to the American Chinese Culture & Education Foundation to purchase, transport and deliver supplies.

Kyle Mackie is a multimedia journalist with reporting experience in Israel and the Palestinian territories, the Western Balkans and New York City. She joined WBFO to cover education and more in June 2019.
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