New Mexico Women Highlighted for Efforts During Pandemic

By Kim Delker, UNM Newsroom

Laura Schaffer & Christina Salas

July 28, 2020

The leader of The University of New Mexico’s 3D mask production effort during the COVID-19 pandemic is being recognized for her efforts on a national scale.

Christina Salas, an associate professor of the Department of Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation at UNM and special assistant to the dean of the School of Engineering for Health Sciences Center relations, has been selected by InStyle magazine to be a “Badass 50: Healthcare Workers Who are Saving the Day” in the August 2020 issue.

This issue focuses on healthcare workers from each state who have gone above and beyond in the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 crisis.

Salas is honored along with Laura Kief Shaffer, a flight nurse who has been instrumental in the effort to manufacture and distribute more than 4,000 masks and nearly 3,000 face shields to frontline workers and residents around the state, including some of the hardest-hit areas like Gallup and the Navajo Nation. Shaffer has organized hundreds of nurse volunteers to assemble, sanitize and vacuum seal the masks before they are distributed. This spring, the School of Engineering signed an agreement that streamlines the process so that masks produced at UNM are distributed to those in need with full support and oversight from the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security.

UNM 3D Mask Makers, a designation given to the team used by the personal protective equipment (PPE)-making community, partnered with the New Mexico COVID-19 Emergency Supply Collaborative to increase distributions, to get a better understanding of the needs of people in the state, and supplement their mask distributions with sanitizer, gowns, food, and water for the hardest hit communities.

The “Badass Women” series runs every August to spotlight 50 women “who show up, speak up, and get the job done to change the world for the better,” the magazine states. Past honorees include Jane Goodall and Nancy Pelosi.

For the first two months, the of around-the-clock mask making was taking place at the COSMIAC research facility south of campus, but recently, the operation moved to main campus in the Stamm Commons of the Centennial Engineering Center.