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Vision and Voice

MERCI Makes a Sustainable Impact | Get to Know the Team

Group photo of MERCI Volunteers with UVA Health University Medical Center leaders

Meet the volunteer team at UVA Health University Medical Center who is making a change by reducing medical waste and putting it in the hands of those who can repurpose it to do the most good.

MERCI (Medical Equipment Recovery of Clean Inventory) is a volunteer-run program that collects clean medical supplies and diverts their use to benefit the UVA community and humanitarian organizations instead of adding to our landfills. Local non-profits, UVA research labs, medical teaching trips, medical mission trips, and global needs are met through this endeavor.

MERCI uses every inch of its space to collect medical supplies for reuse!

To understand the impact this team has, let me provide a wider perspective. Healthcare facilities, while vital in promoting well-being and saving lives, also have a significant environmental impact — generating more than five million tons of waste annually. Research shows that US hospitals dispose of billions of dollars of unused medical supplies each year, which not only puts a strain on our landfills but also results in financial loss for hospitals. This is due in part to safety regulations, but it is also the result of reusable waste being mistakenly disposed of as regulated medical waste (RMW). Recovering and reusing suitable medical supplies is a practical way to reduce waste, save money and help organizations in need.

Dr. Chad Hoyt, Executive Director of Clinical Growth and Outreach, and I recently visited MERCI to learn more about their operations. We saw firsthand how this team, led by Linda Varin (retired UVA OR nurse) and Gail Sullivan (retired UVA researcher), collect, sort, and distribute supplies. The MERCI program operates at no cost to UVA, providing supplies to internal, local, national and international groups. Together, this team of 9 volunteers working each week has:

  • Redirected 49,915 pounds (25 tons) of supplies in 2023
  • Collectively volunteered 4,607 hours in 2023
  • Is currently serving 161 UVA entities/departments and 63 external organizations

We truly enjoyed meeting with this team and greatly appreciate the vital impact they have on medical organizations that provide philanthropic medical care. I want to specially thank Peggy and Charles Anderson, who have volunteered with UVA Health since 2005 and have collectively donated over 19,300 hours to MERCI! They currently breathe new life into blue wrap sheets to keep them out of landfills by repurposing them into around 200 items each week — including the blue bags seen carried around our community.

I am so grateful to this entire team for embracing and making possible this eco-friendly medical supply program that benefits our local communities and people across the globe. If you are interested in volunteering with MERCI or any of UVA Health’s other volunteer programs, learn more here.

You can also help by spreading the word about this important program. If you have unused supplies in your area, MERCI accepts the following:

  • Supplies that cannot be returned for credit
  • Opened but unused supplies (no patient contact)
  • Deleted inventory items
  • Out-of-date items

If you need supplies for a medical mission, clinic, or laboratory, submit a request for by completing this form.

Take care and be well,