Glia's Humanitarian Odyssey: From Innovation to Crisis Response

Glia's Humanitarian Odyssey: From Innovation to Crisis Response


Carrie Wakem, Glia Executive Director
Article Written By:

Carrie Wakem
Executive Director, Glia


3D Printing the Glia Stethoscope

From its inception, Glia’s mission to research and manufacture medical devices has been driven by a commitment to innovate and share that innovation with the world. Little did we know that this mission would lead us down a path of unexpected challenges and remarkable growth. Over time, we have evolved into more than just a medical device company; we have become experts at responding to crises with agility and compassion. We didn't anticipate our work equipping us with the skills and knowledge needed for crisis response. Yet, we have continually found ourselves supporting healthcare systems in need.


The Covid-19 pandemic was a pivotal moment for us at Glia. It was our first major crisis, one that tested our resolve and spurred us into action. Glia's ARM - Aerosol Reducing MaskEmerging from our humble beginnings as an open-source research and manufacturing company, we found ourselves fighting on the frontlines of a global health crisis.


The early days of the pandemic were marked by intense collaboration and dedication within our team. What began with just two employees soon grew to include several more, supported by a network of volunteers worldwide. Daily virtual meetings became a cornerstone of our operations as we navigated the challenges of manufacturing and distributing medical devices at an unprecedented pace.


As the world grappled with the urgent need for protective airway equipment, we wasted no time in mobilizing our resources. One of our earliest projects, the Glia Aerosol-Reducing Non-Invasive Ventilation (NIV) Mask, was developed to minimize pathogen transmission risk for healthcare professionals. The Glia FaceshieldBy reducing aerosolization and addressing leakage issues common in conventional BiPAP and CPAP machines, we sought to enhance airborne safety in high-risk environments such as emergency rooms and intensive care units.


We undertook another crucial initiative: manufacturing high-quality, reusable face shields. Recognizing the shortage of PPE in Canadian healthcare facilities, we tapped into open-source designs, forged partnerships with local additive manufacturers, and established a nodal manufacturing network which allowed rapid shield production. In addition, our Gaza office developed a small-scale injection molding operation, producing and distributing 15,000 face shields to health care workers throughout the Gaza Strip.


Over the past several years, our relief work has expanded into different regions with unique needs around the world. Steth-of-Hope, Glia in AfricaGlia has executed humanitarian relief efforts in Kenya, Zambia, Ukraine, Guatemala, Uganda, and Gaza- showcasing our commitment to aiding communities affected by crisis. What started as a response to a singular challenge evolved into a broader mission centered on human welfare, empowerment and sustainability.


Today, as we press forward, our sense of purpose burns brighter than ever. The trials we’ve faced allow us to grasp our role with clarity. With each challenge conquered, we've earned the experience and confidence that affirm our place at the heart of desperate situations. When Glia was founded, we never envisioned the scope of our impact extending beyond open-source research and manufacturing. Yet, as we navigate through crises, we continue to prove that although medical devices may be the conduit of our work, humanity remains at the center.


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