Meet Sophia Collins, Clinical Nurse Program Manager for CHOP's region-wide, school-based testing initiative Project: ACE- IT (Assisting Childhood Education through Increased Testing). Project ACE IT aims to reduce the risk of in-school COVID-19 transmission and bolster confidence that safe, in-person learning is possible when testing is performed regularly. Sophia is also the Program Officer for the Multicultural Professionals Network (MPN), an employee-based resource group, representing multiple racial, cultural and ethnic groups that seeks to foster a positive work environment that supports employees, patients and patient families of all ethnicities. Sophia has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Widener University and a Master of Science in Nursing from Wilmington University, and has since joined CHOP to immerse herself in the mission and has found many ways to volunteer her time and advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity over the past two years.
Sophia has a long history of volunteering. Ever since she was young, she remembers volunteering alongside her family and being part of Jack and Jill of America, an African American organization formed during the Great Depression with the idea of bringing together children in a social and cultural environment. She volunteered at soup kitchens, neighborhood wide clean-ups. She also recalls childhood memories spending Christmas with her family serving at homeless shelters prior to opening gifts. As she got older, she passed on this family tradition and now volunteers with her three children.
At CHOP, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, she volunteered for the Healthy Kids Running Series, Jannie Blackwell's Holiday Party benefiting homeless families and at the Community Health & Literacy Center (CHLC) voter information station. A few months into the pandemic, statistics showed that African Americans are being diagnosed and are dying at a disproportionately higher rate from coronavirus than other groups. Sophia, along with her mentor and fellow MPN member, Cherie Garrett-Debrest, applied and received a CHOP COVID-19 Response Grant to support the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium. Their mission is to educate and advocate for African Americans, to reduce the incidence of disease and death from coronavirus. Through the grant they were able to purchase much needed supplies, such as gloves and hand sanitizer, to donate to the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium testing sites.
In the past three months, CHOP has supported seven community COVID-19 testing efforts conducted by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, CATE (a mobile testing initiative that provides affordable and accessible COVID-19 education and testing to low income, vulnerable communities across Pennsylvania) and Global Citizen in collaboration with Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium on MLK Day of Service. Sophia volunteered at four of the community COVID-19 testing sites where she helped test children and adults.
"I have seen all sides of COVID. At first, there was so much fear. We know more about the virus now. We also know how African Americans are being affected at a higher rate. It's essential that we help and support these community efforts."
“I am a strong advocate that representation matters. I met an elderly woman at one of the testing sites. She specifically requested that I test her. She wanted someone who looked like her to give the care she needed," she said.
Sophia was recruited into her current role at CHOP by the Project: ACE-IT team after meeting her at one of the COVID-19 testing sites, which highlights her passion and dedication to helping the community.
Sophia plans to continue to support community efforts as much as she can. "We do great work in-house. Let's go out into the community and replicate that. Let's meet those vulnerable communities where they are. Let them know CHOP is here " she said. Sophia learns about volunteer opportunities though the CHOP's Community Relations' Employee Engagement & Volunteering program and through her work with MPN.
"I absolutely love this about CHOP. We are encouraged and supported to engage with our community. Through volunteering I can do more of what I love. I get to be an advocate" she said.