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COVID-19 Testing Efforts Aim to Reach Underserved Communities

March 11, 2021

By Lisa Ryan

An image of a coronavirus

On the final day of 2020, a year defined by the COVID-19 pandemic, College of Medicine faculty physicians learned they would be able to expand COVID-19 testing in underserved communities with funding from the City of Philadelphia Department of Public Health and the Philadelphia Mental Health Care Corporation (PMHCC). With $155,468 distributed across six months, the College of Medicine can now provide free, rapid COVID-19 testing to communities in need.

“In our project proposal for the grant, we made a plan to go to different sites in communities of need, especially those that had poor outcomes for COVID-19 and poor access to testing,” said Annette Gadegbeku, MD, a professor in the Department of Family, Community & Preventive Medicine, associate program director for the Family Medicine Residency at Drexel, and assistant dean of community health within the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

Dr. Gadegbeku is leading the mobile COVID-19 testing initiative alongside Zsofi Szep, MD, an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases and HIV Medicine and the medical director for the Partnership Comprehensive Care Practice, which provides clinical services related to HIV, hepatitis C and opioid use disorder.

The Partnership’s new mobile medical care van, Drexel HOPE (Health, Outreach, Partnership, Empowerment), plays an important role in expanding access to COVID-19 testing. Throughout the spring, the van will provide not only traditional services of the Partnership but also walk-up COVID-19 testing when it is parked at 52nd and Market Streets. The van can be found there every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Drexel HOPE

“We hope it brings people not just the testing, but also awareness and education about COVID-19,” Gadegbeku said. “We hope it encourages people to get tested and, once they know what their status is, to stay socially distant and take safety precautions. All of those things will help make an impact on communities, especially those that are most adversely affected by COVID-19.”

Szep said making the van part of the grant-funded testing initiative made sense because it would help meet Drexel HOPE patients’ demand for COVID-19 testing, and because the van is equipped to process test results in 20 minutes.

Tests are also available through the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships and the College of Nursing and Health Professions on Thursdays from 2 to 4 p.m.; as with the Drexel HOPE van, walk-in patients are welcome and appointments are not required.
Gadegbeku and Szep hope to add additional testing locations as time goes on.

“We're starting small and we want to make sure that we're doing it right,” Szep said.

For updated COVID-19 testing locations and more information, please visit


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