Dr. Ala Stanford
Meet Dr. Ala Stanford, this week’s totally badass Sister Resister. Even before COVID-19, Dr. Stanford was pretty cool by any measure. As a pediatric surgeon with a private practice who also runs a youth empowerment non-profit, Dr. Stanford was already a predominant member of the medical and Philadelphia communities. But then COVID-19 happened, and while most of us spent life in sweatpants and put on a healthy quarantine 15, she used her medical expertise and resources to address some of the inequalities that the pandemic highlighted.
COVID-19 opened our eyes to many inequalities and inefficiencies, but one of the most unjust has been how COVID-19 disproportionately affected Black Americans. Dr. Stanford quickly realized last Spring that many members of the Black community in Philadelphia couldn’t get tested—there were plenty of barriers, including the need for a physician referral. Some testing centers even required patients to be in an automobile to protect frontline workers.
Using her own savings and a GoFundMe campaign, Dr. Stanford got to work in a rented van. She posted up in parking lots and offered free tests to anyone who needed one. But the tests certainly weren’t free for her. When the lab asked her how she would deal with patients without insurance, she had the lab bill her the $200 per person directly, telling them she would figure it out later. No one was going to be turned away because they didn’t have insurance or spare cash.
Other Black doctors joined Dr. Stanford who led the charge in forming the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, which by May was testing 350 people per day, focusing specifically on the Black community. It’s been almost a year since the organization began, and they’ve tested over 22,000 people and counting. The infrastructure they set up long before vaccines were available was ideal for distribution, so they’ve been vaccinating people too—over 6,000 to date, including a new 24-hour vaccination clinic for eligible individuals from the hardest hit geographies in Philadelphia.
Dr. Stanford is still out there every day, providing essential care to marginalized communities. You can support her efforts here.