The University of Tennessee Health Science Center has opened a lab on campus to analyze COVID-19 test samples to help speed up diagnoses in the community. By next week, the lab in the Department of Pathology on the fifth floor of the 930 Madison Plaza Building is expected to be able to analyze up to 1,500 tests per day with a same-day, or at most 24-hour, turnaround time for results.
Scott Strome, MD, executive dean of the UTHSC College of Medicine, said the lab will analyze tests from the drive-thru testing site set up last week at the Mid-South Fairgrounds by UTHSC and its community partners, as well as tests from area hospitals, test sites, and other labs. “The goal will be to process for anyone we can help,” he said.
“This is what academic medicine is,” Dr. Strome said. “We’re here to treat the sickest patients, to collaborate with health care providers, and to really step up in time of need.”
The lab is one of several efforts by UTHSC, its College of Medicine, as well as other colleges and departments, to contribute to the local, state, national, and global fight against the novel coronavirus.
The university, working with the Shelby County Health Department and the City of Memphis, opened the drive-thru testing at the Fairgrounds March 20. The appointment-only site is staffed primarily by UTHSC medical students under the supervision of physician faculty. More than 200 people have been tested so far.
Dr. Strome said the drive-thru site is now operating at full capacity and can test from 150 to 200 people a day. The hope is to open it to a wider cross-section of the community soon, he said.
The College of Medicine has established a website, uthsc.edu/coronavirus, to offer the latest information on the virus and answer questions from the public. Additionally, UTHSC will offer a free two-hour online symposium with coronavirus information April 6, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Information and registration is at uthsc.edu/coronavirus.