Black doctors giving free COVID-19 testing to underserved communities

Theodora Aidoo Apr 27, 2020 at 09:30am

April 27, 2020 at 09:30 am | News, Women

Theodora Aidoo

Theodora Aidoo | Staff Writer

April 27, 2020 at 09:30 am | News, Women

Dr. Ala Stanford, a pediatric surgeon outside the mobile testing site of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium - Pic Credit: Kimberly Paynter/WHYY

A consortium of Black doctors has decided to get testing into the hands of the underserved communities most at risk. With the novel coronavirus still rising in many states, these doctors have chosen to be real-life heroes.

According to Pediatric surgeon and North Philly native Ala Stanford, who runs a medical consulting firm and a private practice, she became frustrated with how the pandemic is already disproportionately affecting the city’s Black community so she decided to take action.

“In Philadelphia, African-Americans represent 44 per cent of the population, but at last check, 52 per cent of the deaths,” Stanford told whyy.org, adding, “For me, that was unacceptable.”

She said she talked to people who were under the impression African Americans were resistant to COVID-19, and published a video trying to dispel the myth.

According to her, she kept getting calls from family and friends, who were worried they had the virus, but couldn’t get tested. “Sometimes they didn’t have referrals or their doctors didn’t have tests. Some had a referral, but their only option was a drive-through testing site and they didn’t have a car”.

The challenges people in the black communities were facing led to the formation of the ‘Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium’.

Stanford, who is also a staff at Abington-Jefferson Health, then launched the Consortium, an arm of her firm that has gathered a group of physicians and churches in Philadelphia’s Black neighbourhoods to help get more testing into the communities fast.

As part of its initiative, the group went out into the community to start making house calls in West Philadelphia and eventually the rest of the city. Reportedly, the group has been able to test around 200 people per day.

Using test kits that Stanford and her colleague medical professionals have on hand in their own practices, the doctors are working together to get the tests where they should go to potentially save more lives.

 Black Doctors
Dana Heller, 3rd medical student, Dr. Pierre Chanson, Natalie Gonzalez, 4th year medical student, Dr. Renell Dupree, and Dr. Ala Stanford taking mobile testing at-risk zip codes in Philadelphia – Pic Credit: Kimberly Paynter/WHYY

“We are many of the forward-facing employees,” she said. “We’re driving the buses, we’re driving … the subways and the trains. We are the post office workers, we are in the grocery stores, we’re ringing people up at the pharmacies.”

The group has set up a  GoFundMe account and has raised more than $2,200 of its $50,000 goal. According to Stanford, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Einstein Medical Center, and the city health department have expressed interest in partnering with the group.

However, in the meantime, she said she plans to keep doing independent tests. “It takes time with systems and bureaucracy,” she said. “I just couldn’t stand watching it on the news every day and not doing anything.”

The group has added a page to Stanford’s website so people would be able to sign up for appointments with the criteria that they have coronavirus symptoms or known contact with someone, who tested positive.

“We have more volunteers right now than test kits. We need the test kits, we need the PPE,” she said.

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