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Focus on Health: Dr. Kim Rhoads Keeps Up the Good Fight for Black People in COVID-19 Battle

“More black folks come out for testing when their neighbors knocked out their door and said, hey there is testing, you should come out.”




Dr. Kim Rhoads

For months now, Dr. Kim Rhoads has been bringing pop-up testing to Black folks where they live.

The testing pop-ups started in the Bay View/Hunter’s Point and Sunnydale neighborhoods in San Francisco with mass testing focused on the Black communities.

 “. . . the infection rate isn’t as high in [Black] communities as it is in other communities, but the death rate is the highest than any population in the country besides elderly” said Rhoads who engineers the pop-up through Umoja Health.

Alameda County has the highest mortality rate for COVID-19 and it is in Black men at 3.9%.

In response, Umoja Health is holding two testing events this month in East Oakland, and Rhoads is anxious to get the word out. 

So far, their method seems to be working.

The pop-up testing model is smaller, in neighborhoods and 50% of the folks tested are Black.  “More Black folks came out for testing when their neighbors knocked on their doors and said hey, there is testing, you should come out.”

Rhoads is “trying to make it no barriers and easier for everyone.”

Thus far, about 1,000 people have been tested, using saliva rather than the uncomfortable nasal swab.

Up to 200 people have attended a pop-up testing site.

Other than testing, the messaging is the use of PPE, social distancing, and to work with other people safely and in person using the Umoja model. Rhoads also encourages people to get vaccinated.  Just like the flu vaccine, it will help lessen the spread and mortality.

 Dr. Kim Rhoads’ title is Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and the Director, of the Office of Community Engagement for the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UCSF School of Medicine.

That’s a mouthful and as the twin pandemics continue in the world, the United States and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Area, Rhoads focus has shifted.

Rhoads lives in Oakland, received her M.D. degree from UCSF jointly with a Master of Science in Health and Medical Science from the U.C. Berkeley School of Public Health. 

She also holds a Master’s degree in Public Health, healthcare management and policy, from the Harvard School of Public Health where she served as a California Endowment Scholar in minority health policy.

Rhoads started thinking about “who are we engaged with testing, who are we reaching, because those are the people whom we can share messages with and provide information that then can be disseminated out to the community networks and to their networks.  A way to reach people without being overbearing as the all-knowing academic institution.”

There are virtual public meetings on Tuesdays from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. that people can get more involved.  Community groups currently include Lifelong Medical Clinic; Friends of Frank; Brotherhood of Elders Network; and Oakland Frontline Healers (which includes Roots Clinic, Stop Killing our Kids Movement) which helps UCSF reach folks they do not have easy access to. 

And for those who test positive, there is follow-up through Community Wellness services which includes a daily phone call, advice, and delivery of groceries in Deep East Oakland zip codes.

The next pop-ups will be on February 6 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the parking lot of the Champions Smokehouse on the corner of 98 Avenue and Walter near Edes Avenue. And on February 21 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Akoma Market @Black Cultural Zone, 6955 Foothill Blvd.  There will also have a meal give-away, PPEs and advice about what to do if someone in your home who has COVID-19.

For more information and to pre-register for testing log onto