ABOVE PHOTO: Group shot of the members of The Links Inc., Philadelphia Chapter during the check presentation: Leah Sheppard, Evelyn Sample-Oates, Dr. Ala Stanford, Mahlene Duckett-Lee, and Frances Jones.
By Andrea Lawful Sanders
Leah Sheppard and Dr. Ala Stanford are two women who may have previously crossed paths because of their affiliations in Philadelphia and beyond, but a dire need in the Black and Brown community became the glue that would forever bond how they came together.
The Philadelphia Chapter of The Links , Incorporated, have donated $13,300 to the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium. Chapter president Leah Sheppard talked with the SUN about the organization’s participation in this effort.
SUN: Describe how you learned about the COVID-19 consortium, and how you arrived at the place of donation and the amount.
Leah Sheppard: The Philadelphia Chapter of The Links, Inc. was looking for an opportunity to support an organization on the front lines in the battle against COVID-19. From job loss, to closed schools (including colleges and universities), to food insecurity and the lack of PPE, we looked at a broad spectrum of areas that could benefit from support — specifically financial support from our organization.
We learned about the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium (BDCC) through both national and regional news reports, as well as through some chapter members who knew Dr. Ala Stanford or had been involved with her nonprofit in some way. We connected with BDCC to gain a better understanding of their mission, funding needs and current funding sources. Once we gathered that information, we received a unanimous buy-in and offered our partnership with the goal of helping to increase the availability of testing kits for African American communities across the city.
SUN: What is the impact that will be gained because of that donation?
Leah Sheppard: According to Dr. Stanford, our donation will assist the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium in not only diagnosing COVID-19 cases, but in working to improve overall health equity and outcomes in the African American community, which is also one of the areas of focus for The Links, Incorporated. Our donation of $13,300 will help with purchasing supplies, PPE, and educational materials, as well as providing volunteer resources, transportation to area sites, etc.
SUN: What programs are the LINKS involved in locally?
Leah Sheppard: Aligned to the overall focus of The Links, Inc., the Philadelphia Chapter initiates community impact programs through five facets, which include Services to Youth, The Arts, National Trends and Services, International Trends and Services and Health and Human Services. The programs are implemented through strategies such as public information and education, economic development, and public policy campaigns.
Two of our current partnerships are with the Salvation Army and their work to eradicate human trafficking and with Girls, Inc. of Greater Philadelphia & Southern New Jersey providing mentoring and learning resources through their existing programs.
I met Dr. Ala Stanford when I invited her to be interviewed at WURD radio station the first week of March 2020 to acknowledge her as a woman of excellence during Women’s History Month. She is a world-class pediatric surgeon who was born and raised in North Philadelphia and a gregarious soul who carries a heart of love for her people.
When Dr. Stanford learned there were WURD listeners who refused to adhere to the government warnings about COVID-19, she immediately agreed to become the medical correspondent for the show and would call in twice a week for several weeks to update us. Her explanation in simple terms about the dire impact the virus could have in the Black community, led to countless citizens in Philadelphia taking her words seriously.
After weeks of reporting to Philadelphians, and being highlighted across the country for her work here, Dr. Stanford announced that she had pulled together a group of Black doctors locally, to begin testing the citizens who had no access to drive-by testing, no insurance and were not considered essential workers. This led to the creation of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium (BDCC), whose mission is the education and advocacy for African Americans to reduce the incidence of disease and death from coronavirus.
African Americans are being diagnosed at a disproportionately higher rate than other groups and are dying from coronavirus at a higher rate than other groups. To address that need, the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium was born. We have built a mobile COVID-19 testing operation.
Their goal with the mobile unit is to provide a testing alternative that is BARRIER FREE to test for coronavirus disease in our hardest-hit areas in Philadelphia.
Black Doctors COVID19 Consortium (BDCC) is an initiative of It Takes Philly, Inc. a 501c3. Dr. Stanford saw a need, then began the work with support from local churches, community members, and the Philadelphia Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, who gave them a giant booster shot with their most generous donation. This is a prime example of what is possible when the community joins arms with the underserved among us.
For more information on how to help fund the consortium, please visit: www.realconciergemedicine.com and click the link to their GoFundMe page.