person kneeling next to a dog
A volunteer from Cleveland Students Supporting Health Workers helps out with pet care.

Students launch grassroots effort to assist health care workers during COVID-19

When the COVID-19 outbreak started to become increasingly prevalent in Northeast Ohio, Mitchell Thom, a first-year medical student at Case Western Reserve University, and his friends were looking for ways to help. The group started discussing how much physicians and health care employees on the front lines are juggling, so they came up with simple ways to take care of providers’ regular, everyday needs.

As Thom started reaching out to more teachers and students about the idea, someone mentioned Lyba Zia, a third-year student, was doing something similar. And, with that, Cleveland Students Supporting Health Workers was born.

These two students—who have never met in person—joined forces, creating a process to match student volunteers with physicians, nurses and other health care staff needing help with errands and chores outside of work. In less than a week, they signed up more than 100 volunteers to shop for groceries; prepare meals; tutor children online; feed, walk and take care of pets; and run much-needed errands for Cleveland health care workers.

Isaac Levine, a third-year medical student who was pulled off his clinical rotation when COVID-19 restrictions were put in place, found himself with free time and wanted to do something to help those on the front lines. He joined forces with fellow students Abby Gross and Daniel Li to address the shortage of personal-protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and gloves, in local hospitals. They developed a plan modeled on a program already under way at Georgetown University and soon started MedSupplyDrive@cwru. They are also responding to the call for volunteers to make face masks for Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals.

Read more about another student effort: MedSupplyDrive@cwru

Volunteers are provided with safety guidelines developed by doctors at MetroHealth and are encouraged to drop off deliveries without direct contact, if possible, Thom said.

“We want CWRU students from all schools who want to help. The more, the better,” said Thom, noting that the majority of its volunteers now are from the medical, nursing and dental schools.  Thom also noted that his group can help students away from Northeast Ohio who want to help in their own communities.

What does this group need most? “We need health workers to take advantage of these volunteers,” said Zia. “Right now, we have only 24 physicians and staff signed up, and we’re ready to take on so many more. We have an army of students waiting to take a load off those who are working overtime to treat patients and save lives.”

Health workers and volunteer students can sign up by emailing their contact information to When emailing, please note how you would like to help or if you need assistance.