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Closing the Gap on New Gown

Researchers in the College of Textiles are close to achieving the biggest revolution in health care coverage since Medicare. If Traci Lamar and her team of Ph.D. students can pull it off, patients will soon drop those drafty hospital gowns that open in the back (usually at the worst possible moment) and change into gowns that provide both comfort and dignity.

But they need your backing. Literally.

If the researchers can raise the funds to manufacture 500 of the newly designed gowns, WakeMed Health and Hospitals of Raleigh will test them alongside the traditional gowns under real-world conditions.

Century-Old Problem

It’s a great opportunity, and a major step toward solving a century-old problem.

“Patients use words like ‘mortified’ to describe how they feel wearing the traditional hospital gown,” says Lamar, associate professor of textile and apparel technology and management. “There’s a groundswell of support among patients to redesign the gown.”

That’s exactly what Lamar and her team have been doing for the past five years. Thanks to funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, they’ve conducted focus groups, talked with health care professionals and met with hospital administrators to come up with specifications for the new gown.

The resulting design seems to please everyone. It’s comfortable and opens in the front, but still allows access for hospital personnel to monitor vital signs and attach medical devices.

Traci Lamar (right) works on the test gown with Ph.D. student Anne Porterfield.

But before they can finalize the new gown and find an industry partner to license and market it, the researchers need to test how it holds up under real-world conditions. After all, the gown has to survive a hospital’s heavy-duty washing machine, not once, but 50 times or more. And it needs to be as comfortable and accessible on the ward as it seems to be in the lab.

That’s why the test at WakeMed is so important. And why your support is vital.

Crowd Funding

The research team has established a SciFund Challenge, a special website where donors can kick in any amount to help raise the $5,000 needed to cover the manufacturing cost of the test gowns. It’s a concept known as crowd funding that is becoming increasing popular with entrepreneurs and others who don’t have access to traditional sources of capital.

The researchers are even offering modest rewards for different levels of donations: window decals for $15, bookmarks for $25, your name on a display gown in the College of Textiles for $50 and custom textile products for larger donations.

By the way, the company slated to manufacture the test gowns is RLCB Inc., a company that employs blind and visually impaired adults to manufacture a wide range of textiles, from pillows and fleece jackets to tactical gear for the Army. RCLB is a strong supporter of NC State and a client of NC State’s Industrial Extension Service.

Responses (4 Comments)

  • Barbara Odom

    Sounds like a great concept; where would I contribute? Was it in the article and I just missed it?

  • Barbara Odom

    P.S. If I am ever in the hospital again, please reserve one of these gowns for me!

  • David Hunt


    There is a link in the story, but it never hurts to give it out again:

    Thanks for your comments. And thanks for supporting Dr. Lamar’s work.

  • I am a fulltime member of the NC State staff, and realize that I probably can’t have a one-time deduction from my paycheck, so I would like to send a check. Could someone let me know exactly who I send it to and how it should be made out (to the Sci-Fi Challenge?) ?

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