‘Real hero’: Dr. Ala Stanford wins award named for late U.S. Sen. Harris Wofford

Dr. Ala Stanford administers a COVID-19 swab test on Wade Jeffries in the parking lot of Pinn Memorial Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Stanford and other doctors formed the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium to offer testing and help address heath disparities in the African American community. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Dr. Ala Stanford administers a COVID-19 swab test on Wade Jeffries in the parking lot of Pinn Memorial Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Stanford and other doctors formed the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium to offer testing and help address heath disparities in the African American community. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Dr. Ala Stanford has won the Harris Wofford Active Citizenship Award for her work as founder and co-chair of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney recognized the physician as a “real hero” with the honor Wednesday, citing the many lives she helped save over the course of the pandemic. Stanford is the 23rd recipient of the award, named after the former U.S. Senator and special assistant to U.S. President John F. Kennedy who was instrumental in the formation of the Peace Corps and fought for civil rights.

“At a time when COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted the Black community, particularly frontline workers,” said Kenney, “Dr. Stanford and her team of physicians, nurses, and medical workers have been going regularly to the heart of underserved communities, particularly Black churches.”

Stanford and her team have provided COVID-19 testing and education to over 21,000 people in the city since the pandemic’s outbreak in April, with a focus on Black people in communities underserved by the government and the health care industry.

In August 2020, the city reported Black and Latino residents had the highest rates of infection, hospitalization, and death from the virus of any racial and ethnic group. As of Thursday, the virus had killed 2,550 Philadelphians.

“Your health and your well-being matters to me,” said Stanford. “I saw a need that you weren’t getting. And after 23 years of being a physician, I was now in a place to bring it to you.”

The award came after Heather Wathington, president and co-chair of Girard College, announced that the consortium will be providing free COVID-19 testing at the school for the 26th annual Greater Philadelphia King Day of Service on Jan. 18, the Dr. Martin Luther King holiday.

The regional day of service, that includes Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, is said to be the largest MLK Day event in the nation. This year’s theme is justice and the COVID-19 health crisis.

“While this year’s event will look a little different,” said Wathington. “I cannot think of another activity than offering testing to those who have been hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.”

The event continues a partnership between Girard College and Global Citizen, a local nonprofit that promotes racial and social justice.

Todd Bernstein, president of Global Citizen and founder and director of the day of service, announced other events including food distribution, a virtual career expo, and a virtual conversation about racial justice and disparities in health care which Stanford will participate in.

The free COVID testing is scheduled to take place from 9 a.m. to noon.

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