By Andrea Alvarez

TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News at 10) – Two years ago a team of local doctors developed a testing supply now used around the world. In continued coverage of Women’s History Month, CW44 news is highlighting a doctor who changed the history of the pandemic starting in Tampa.

“It could take years to be able to do this and we’re trying to do this in a matter of days.”

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Back in March of 2020 at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic USF’s Dr. Summer Decker and her partnering team at Tampa General Hospital worked endlessly to fight the virus.

“I head up the team that does all the 3D modeling, computer modeling, and 3D printing for the clinical cases that happen here at our hospital and other hospitals in the surrounding area,” said Dr. Decker, who serves as Director of 3D Clinical Applications in both USF Radiology & Tampa General Radiology. But medical teams around the world faced a second crisis: a shortage of PPE supplies.

“And so we were sitting here, there was an email that was sent around by our deans saying these are the things that we’re short of. And one of the things that caught my attention on there was the nasopharyngeal swab,” she explained. That nasal swab was being manufactured overseas. “So when those borders closed internationally, we didn’t have access to that anymore.”

In order to continue treating the overwhelming influx of patients, Dr. Decker and her team brainstormed an alternative solution.

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“What if we could create a 3D printed version of the nasopharyngeal swab and would it even work?”

So, Radiology and Infectious Diseases teams worked together to develop a 3D printed nasal swab. Then, they tested it.

“I got a call from the virology team,” Dr. Decker recalled. “They said, ‘not only does it work, but it works better than the traditional swab’,” she laughed.

But work wasn’t over. “We realized that the entire world was in a crisis.” The team of doctors shared those files with hospitals around the world within a couple of weeks. “We were blown away! We have over 80 million of them in over 60 countries. I got, one night, over four thousand emails from people around the world asking for help.”

She and her team were making history in the medical field.

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“Women’s History Month is really important because you didn’t often see a lot of women in science,” she explained. “Talking to those little girls out there like I was, seeing someone in this role being able to change the world, that, to me, means more than anything.”