Groundbreaking COVID research. Vital health care for local residents. And now it risks closure

When UCSF scientists and the city’s Department of Public Health approached San Francisco’s Latino leaders in April 2020 about testing Mission District residents for COVID in the earliest weeks of the pandemic, Valerie Tullier-Layva was intrigued but skeptical.

The proposal was to test every resident in a four-by-four-block neighborhood to better understand how widespread the virus was at the time. Thullier-Layva, who had grown up in the Mission, was already convinced that Latinos in the city were the hardest hit by COVID, but she and her peers lacked the data to prove it.

A formal investigation could provide that evidence and help get the resources that are so desperately needed to keep the community safe. But the traditional approach to academic research — with scientists in control and their subjects earning little beyond the care they receive during the study — wasn’t going to give her community the benefits it needed, Thullier-Layva said.

Instead, scientists, public health experts, and the Latino community formed an unusual ongoing partnership called Unidos en Salud (United in Health), which turned the mission into both a research site and a place of service.

More than two years later, the partnership’s flagship clinic, at 24th and Capp streets in the Mission, has provided more than 90,000 COVID tests and delivered more than 60,000 vaccines, mostly to Latino clients. The research conducted there produced more than a dozen academic papers, several of which reached audiences far beyond the mission and contributed vital knowledge about COVID to the global response to the pandemic.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *