Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price to HSC students, faculty: ‘Give yourself a pat on the back’
By Diane Smith
Students and faculty volunteers from The University of North Texas Health Center at Fort Worth were recognized by Mayor Betsy Price for establishing the first community-based COVID-19 testing site in the city.
“To all of you, you need to reach back and give yourself a pat on the back,” Price said during a recognition ceremony held for the volunteers. The festivities came as HSC volunteers ran the last batch of tests from a location near the city’s hospital district.
“The volunteer support HSC students dedicated to our community during this unprecedented pandemic is admirable,” Price said. “It encourages me to see so many selfless volunteers giving back to our community while also balancing academics. Fort Worth’s medical field will be blessed as these students graduate and join the workforce.”
HSC operated two drive-thru test sites during the spring and early summer in the fight against COVID-19. The first site was for first responders, but later the testing was expanded to other groups, including residents.
HSC volunteers tested about 3,000 people at two testing sites. Both sites now are closed as students and faculty are transitioning back to academics.
“The partnership between HSC and The City of Fort Worth dramatically increased access to COVID-19 testing for first responders, medical professionals, transit workers and the public, including some of our most vulnerable residents,” HSC President Dr. Michael Williams said. “Thanks to the tireless effort by our students, staff and faculty members, we provided much-needed testing to almost 3,000 people.”
“HSC, Mayor Price and the City of Fort Worth will continue to collaborate to help our community through these challenging times,” Dr. Williams said.
The city said the free testing network in Fort Worth has now expanded through partners such as Walgreens, Kroger Health, Walmart, CVS and others who will continue to offer testing at certain locations. Details are available at http://fortworthtexas.gov/COVID-19/testing/.
Additionally, the city is partnering with Kroger Health to continue the operation of one testing site previously operated by HSC students.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Jessica Rangel, Vice Provost for Academic Innovation. “We have all bonded in such a unique way. We have all learned together – this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and these students will take this pandemic emergency response knowledge with them into the communities they end up serving.”
Price was joined for the event by Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus, first responders and community leaders. The mayor presented volunteers with playing cards that tout the City of Fort Worth name.
Student volunteers said the experience threw them into real-time lessons about a pandemic while also allowing them to serve the community.
“I think it has been therapeutic for us to feel like we were able to contribute to healthcare during a global pandemic,” said Kevin P. Thompson, a third-year student at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, or TCOM.
Thompson and Claire Smith, another third-year student at TCOM, served as student leaders for the testing sites. Both students said this volunteer work filled a void when social distancing forced a break in their rotations.
“I’ve learned a lot through this process,” Smith said, describing how safety and leadership were key lessons that emerged from working at the testing sites.
Smith and Thompson said students from different areas of study, including physician assistants and pharmacy, came together to help the community.
“It’s taken a lot of work – a lot of hours, and there has been a huge number of people who contributed,” Smith said.