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Staff at Monument Health placing N95 masks requiring sterilization on racks ringing a UVC light tower.

Staff at Monument Health place N95 masks requiring sterilization on racks ringing a UVC light tower. This unique approach to sterilizing masks is attracting attention from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Photo courtesy of Monument Health.

Sanford School of Medicine alumni Daniel Petereit, ‘89 M.D. (Monument Health, Rapid City), and Emily Dunn, ‘08 M.D. (Willamette Valley Cancer Institute, Eugene, Oregon), and medical students Ethan Pauley and Colton Powers, have devised an innovative solution to sterilizing and re-using N95 protective masks. Dunn is a South Dakota native and former Petereit student.

Using ultraviolet UVC light towers that are typically used to decontaminate patient rooms, Monument Health in Rapid City has adapted the devices to sterilize as many as 1,900 N95 masks per day. The system requires that masks are exposed to about seven and a half minutes of UVC light. Each respirator mask can be sterilized up to five times using this technique.

Dr. Petereit, a radiation oncologist at the John T. Vucurevich Cancer Care Institute, said the project has attracted interest from the National Cancer Institute, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and other organizations involved in meeting the need for sterilizing PPEs in medical care.

Monument Health is coordinating with the other regional health care systems to set up the same procedure at additional facilities.