Dr. Ala Stanford

WGL 2021-Dr Ala Stanford
Courtesy of Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium
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  • Affiliation
    Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium

A pediatric surgeon in the Philadelphia suburbs, Ala Stanford spent the early days of the pandemic trying to provide COVID-19 tests to the area’s communities of color. Although Black and Latinx residents were suffering disproportionately, “the majority of the testing sites were in affluent white neighborhoods,” she recalls. “There was no testing in the communities where people were dying the most. So we created it.” With a rented van and PPE from her office, Stanford set up shop in church parking lots and started swabbing noses. That mobile operation soon turned into the nonprofit Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, which has drawn national attention for Stanford’s tireless efforts to treat Philadelphia’s most vulnerable and most underserved populations—and to improve the nation’s still lagging vaccine equity. This year, as Philadelphia and its home state struggled to equitably distribute its vaccine supply, Stanford’s organization held walk-up vaccination clinics in locations convenient for the city’s Black residents, who account for 44% of the population. By restricting vaccines to people who lived in specific zip codes, the consortium circumvented some of the equity problems (and vaccine-rollout red tape) plaguing Fortune 500 pharmacy chains like Rite Aid, which saw white suburbanites driving into Philadelphia to (legally) take the majority of its available vaccines. By early May, Stanford’s group had vaccinated more than 46,000 Philadelphians—more than 80% of whom are people of color—and drew praise from the Biden administration’s top health officials. “She is a perfect example of how a community member can stand up and lead during a time of crisis,” Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said during an April virtual event with Stanford, before telling her: “It’s extraordinary what you’ve been able to do.”