Dr. John Callahan ’86, a practicing physician at the Syracuse, New York VA Medical Center, closely monitored the emergence of COVID-19 and was concerned with the number of patients requiring ventilators due to acute respiratory failure. He realized the United States would be facing a ventilator shortage if it did not act quickly. Callahan found a decade-old study from MIT on a student-designed, low-cost ventilator and tracked down the lead project engineer, Dr. Alex Slocum. They spoke in March, and Callahan proposed combining a medical “respiratory circuit” to the technical actuator device designed by the MIT team. The MIT effort expanded with the goal of creating an “open-source” design. Callahan, however, sought to produce commercial-grade ventilators. He took his respiratory circuit design to Syracuse University and, through the Dean of Architecture, came to work with JMA Wireless, a cell phone manufacturer.
In just 10 days, Callahan and JMA engineers created the PREVAIL NY ventilator, mating commercially available, off-the-shelf components with Callahan’s respiratory circuit. “What I am most excited about is its familiarity to physicians around the world and that it has many of the same technical components that are common to ventilators that currently exist,” says Callahan. After successfully ventilating three pigs with COVID-19 induced Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome, the JMA Wireless corporate counsel submitted the PREVAIL NY device for “Emergency Use Authorization” to the FDA. While social distancing measures have mitigated the need for emergency ventilators in the United States, PREVAIL NY is ready to be deployed inexpensively whenever it is needed. “I credit my West Point education with helping me to succeed in getting this product fielded,” says Callahan. “In seeking help on this project, I was told by many that it could not be completed, but I think West Point imbues all graduates with persistence, which is learned though our many trials—successes and failures—as cadets.”
WPAOG thanks Dr. Callahan and all of the West Point Grads doing their part to help during this pandemic.