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Grad student creates filtered masks for local hospitals, community

Saduman Gurbuz was at Walmart picking up materials to make face masks when she crossed paths with a man in the aisle who had mentioned to her that adding a filtered layer made from an air conditioner filter can make a mask almost as effective as an N95 mask. Gurbuz took this advice and has since then been taking the extra time to stock up on advanced allergen Filtrete filters, cutting them to size and sewing them in-between the sheets of fabric, topping them off with elastics on each side to wrap around the ears. 

“I was going to make just regular fabric masks,” Gurbuz said. ““I’m glad that I met that guy in the store and that he taught me how to make masks this way.”

With the country pulled into an economic plunge and panic buying reaching its peak, the continuing lack of resources has prompted people to begin creating their own. Many have been stitching together their craftiest skills and have begun designing and making homemade personal protective equipment, or PPE—most notably, face masks. Individuals like Texas Woman’s University’s Saduman Gurbuz has not only been able to make reusable face masks for her and her family, but has been making enough to frequently donate to centers for staff and visitors.  

Meet this student who made it her mission to bring awareness and relief to her community.

Gurbuz, a first-generation graduate healthcare administration student Saduman Gurbuz has been making DIY face masks in her home using her sewing machine. However, Gurbuz has added one extra step to the production of her homemade masks.

“This is not a basic mask,” Grubuz said. “If it was, I could have made up to 500 by this time. It’s not easy.”

Gurbuz is originally from Turkey where she earned her bachelor’s in nursing in 1982. In Turkey, she spent her time working as a supervisor and nurse at a state hospital in Istanbul. Since moving to the United States about 30 years ago with her husband, Gurbuz found herself landing more business-centered roles, but has not lost her passion for helping others. Her work for the community has earned her many awards including the Woman of Spirit Award from the Southwest Jewish Congress and a number of Meritorious Service Awards from Turkish societies and associations across the country. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic began to escalate and the supply of masks and gloves plummeted, Gurbuz observed the crisis and took it upon herself to try and contribute to a solution for the shortage. 

“I saw on the news that one of the hospitals was looking for volunteers to make homemade masks here in Texas,” Gurbuz said. “I thought ‘I’m not too bad with sewing,’ so I went shopping for materials.”

So far, Gurbuz has made close to 200 masks for not only nearby hospitals but also the community and has posted a tutorial on YouTube where she explains how she makes them. She keeps a list of addresses of hospitals and ships out multiple at a time. She also made many for neighbors who have not been able to find any in the stores and asked if she could help provide a few. After being let go from her administrative job due to the pandemic, she said she has not found it difficult to find time to make her DIY PPE equipment and that she enjoys being able to help. 

Although, when committing time to help others, one can end up running into a few obstacles. With more people joining in on making homemade masks, materials have begun to run low, and Gurbuz has noticed the shortage of the right-sized elastics for the ear straps. She said that she was able to buy her materials early on and has gathered “plenty of elastics” for the time being but sympathizes with those who have not been able to get any. She encourages those who do have the materials to not only make masks for themselves but to also make some to donate to nearby facilities that may need them. 

In all this, Gurbuz acknowledges that while the DIY mask’s ability to work as well as an N95 mask is not as reliable, she said that it is better than nothing. She admits to being “not very young” and finds joy in being able to do what she can even if it’s not out in the centers carrying lots of items and spending many hours volunteering. 

By putting her passions into action, Gurbuz said she is proud of where she has landed herself today. Everyday she puts time into ensuring the health and safety of her community, and in return is able to do what she loves. 

Gakenia Njenga can be reached via email at

Featured image courtesy of Saduman Gurbuz.

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