On track to go to medical school, Amanda Hughes decided she wanted to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic in Philadelphia.
“Access to testing should not be such a struggle,” Hughes said.
So, the junior biology major found her cause by volunteering to lead testing operations for Philly Fighting COVID.
Founded in April by Andrei Doroshin, the non-profit tests Philadelphians for free and makes and delivers reusable personal protective equipment to hospitals in Philadelphia, according to its website.
Philly Fighting COVID has tested more than 2,000 Philadelphians so far, Hughes said.
Most of the organization’s funding comes from donations and support from organizations and businesses in Philadelphia, like the American Red Cross and the Temple University COVID Task Force, said Shakibur Rahman, a junior biology major who also volunteers with the organization.
The organization also receives limited funding from the City of Philadelphia through a grant provided by the Center for Disease Control, Doroshin said.
Volunteers test Philadelphians over the age of 18 at Richmond Street near Frankfort Ave. on Wednesdays and Fridays from 8 a.m to 4:30 p.m. Residents are required to register online prior to testing, according to Philly Fighting COVID’s website.
People who want to be tested go through a vital screening, a questionnaire about symptoms and exposure and a nose swab. Results take about 3-5 days, Hughes said.
Volunteers arrive at the site around 5:30 a.m. to set up and get ready for the day of testing, Doroshin added. The group has a safety meeting before they begin testing residents at 8 a.m.
“Come 8 o’clock our doors open, normally we get a flood, then at noon we break for lunch and then we go back at one and we go until five,” Doroshin said. “People are on their feet the entire time dealing with patients. Every station has a new patient on average every 2 minutes.”
Philly Fighting COVID is hoping to open three more testing sites in Germantown, the Northeast and South Philadelphia, Doroshin said.
Rahman helps lead Philly Fighting COVID’s fundraising and marketing efforts. Working with Philly Fighting COVID is an opportunity for him to contribute to the Philadelphia community by ensuring residents have access to free COVID-19 testing, he said.
“It’s so easy for us to shrug off the health concerns [COVID-19] brings to the people that live in the area, so I thought it was important to give back to the community,” Rahman said. “This was a great way to do so by helping make PPE for healthcare workers, and testing anyone and everyone in Philly for free.”
Residents in communities of color have less access to COVID-19 testing centers than wealthier, white neighborhoods, ABC News reported. Pennsylvania is ranked last among states in terms of testing based on population, according to research by Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.
Before the pandemic, Hughes worked in three local restaurants, but they closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. She was drawn to volunteering so she could gain experience in the medical field.
“I just wanted to volunteer because I used to have 3 jobs that restricted me from basically doing things that I wanted that restricted me from medical school, shadowing, research,” she added. “Once all those jobs ceased to exist with everything shutting down I had a lot more time.”
Pranav Neyveli, a 20-year-old Chadds Ford resident who lives at Valleybrook, said community response to the COVID-19 pandemic is important in Philadelphia, especially one that focuses on underserved groups in the city, Neyveli said.
“I think what they’re doing is super critical for Philadelphians, especially since there’s people I know without insurance that can benefit from free testing,” added Neyveli.
Hughes added that volunteering with Philly Fighting COVID has given her the opportunity to be personable with people being tested, something she thinks is important to learn as a healthcare worker.
“Gaining patient trust while ensuring their safety is in good hands is so important, and puts the public’s trust back into healthcare,” Hughes said.