UTHSC students volunteer on the frontlines at COVID-19 testing sites

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Hundreds of UT Health Science Center medical and nursing students are volunteering countless hours on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I can’t imagine a more real-world living laboratory experience for students than this,” said testing site director Dr. David Schwartz.

The medical school partnered with the city and Shelby County Health Department to provide COVID-19 testing for the past month.

So far, the students have administered more than 3000 tests.

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There are 150 UT Health Science Center medical students leading the charge in this effort.

They’re already volunteered more than 3,000 hours at testing sites.

Staff said it’s a one of kind opportunity where students oversee just about everything on-site with supervision from faculty members.

Dr. Schwartz told FOX13, “In no other program have I seen medical students not only given the opportunity to do all of these activities but also learn how to run complex organizations. To deliver high-quality care in a real-world setting, but to be able to do it well – that’s remarkable.”

Now they’ve expanded COVID-19 testing to Frayser, helping those in underserved communities. Students say these are the same communities they work with at clinicals throughout the year.

“We know as medical students that we’re supported by the community throughout the year and throughout our time here during our schooling, so just to give back a little bit to those communities is just an incredible opportunity for us,” said third-year medical student Chloe Hundman.

And what these students are learning goes beyond science and the spread of the virus. It’s something that can’t be found in a medical book – compassion.

“We’re interfacing with patients,” said third-year medical Lydia Meakpeace. “You know people are scared when they come to get tested, they’re worried in figuring out the best support them and be there for them, and being successful going forward and staying at home and protecting themselves and protecting their families.”

And the life lesson of paying it forward.

Makepeace said, “Faculty who are volunteering their time to come and supervise us so we can keep doing what we’re doing and that example for us and for all medical students at the site is really important for us to carry into our future.”

UTHSC staff said they are working to add another testing site out east in the Bartlett area, and they want to start mobile testing, bringing the tests directly to neighborhoods.

Staff said they’ll keep this testing going for the next six to eight weeks, or as long as it’s needed.

Testing in Frayser is at the North Frayser Community Center located 2555 Saint Elmo Avenue and it's tentatively scheduled to be open Monday through Wednesday next week.

​Tiger Lane will be open Thursday through Saturday. The hours are tentatively 8:45 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.

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