UAMS Mobile Unit Screens in Warren, Mountain Home, Forrest City, SW Little Rock

By Ashley McNatt

“These mobile testing sites are vital for rural communities and people who may not have access to transportation,” said Jennifer Hunt, M.D., director of the UAMS Mobile Triage Unit and chair of the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Pathology and Laboratory Services.

SW LR Mobile Clinic

Jennifer Hunt, M.D., center, poses with Rep. Fredrick Love and Sen. Joyce Elliott at the Southwest Little Rock mobile clinic.Bryan Clifton

COVID-19 is caused by a new respiratory virus that has the potential for severe illness and pneumonia in some people. Symptoms or combinations of symptoms may include: fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, chills, headache, or loss of taste or smell.

The mobile unit team began traveling the state to offer COVID-19 evaluations in early April. The mobile unit is run by UAMS employees, National Guard and other volunteers.

“Everyone on the team is still juggling these trips with their regular job and they are all doing a great job,” said Hunt.

SW LR Mobile Clinic

Derek Jones retrieves supplies from the van during the Mountain Home drive-thru. The van is on loan from the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership and the UAMS Simulation Center.Ben Boulden

At the drive-thru entrances, residents are seen by one of the nurses and then drive into the service areas in front of public buildings to be asked a series of screening questions by one of the UAMS physicians on site. Their condition and answers determine if they need testing. The swabs are performed by experienced nurses and National Guard medics who obtain a specimen from the back part of the nose.

The samples are taken back to UAMS for processing and UAMS staff follow-up with the patients with their results in a couple of days. No patient had to get out of their vehicle, and all the screeners were equipped and wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, eye protection, gloves and disposable medical gowns.

“We find the local communities to be very welcoming. In Warren, we set up at an elementary school and we had a number of bilingual nurse volunteers to help us.  The set-up and traffic flow was really good,” said Hunt. “Mountain Home also had a fantastic venue—the county fairgrounds. We screened a good number of community members at each site.”

The mobile triage unit has overcome such issues as severe weather and IT problems, but because of the standardized workflow and process, the team still makes each screening event a success.  They decide each week where to go based on several different parameters, including how much testing is being done in the area, a specific community request, or if there is a pocket of high positive test results in the region.

“I think it’s important for us to be out in communities across the state. We’re serving an important need. We have had a really positive reception in every town we have visited,” said Hunt.

The unit wrapped up the week with a screening event at the Southwest Community Center in Little Rock, where UAMS partnered with the City of Little Rock, the Mexican Consulate, the Arkansas Minority Health Commission, and Arkansas Children’s Hospital to provide the clinic.

SW LR Mobile Clinic

Mariella Hernandez (center) volunteers at the Southwest Little Rock Mobile Clinic.Bryan Clifton

“The biggest challenge in Little Rock was coordinating all the organizations and volunteers who wanted to help – the Mexican Consulate, the City of Little Rock, the logistics,” said Mariella Hernandez, M.P.S, senior project manager of strategic initiatives at UAMS and coordinator for the mobile triage team. “It is such a big effort here.”

The southwest Little Rock clinic was designed to reach Latino and African American communities that might not come to UAMS for testing because of linguistic or cultural barriers and fear.

“This work is incredibly rewarding. I’m grateful to be a part of providing testing in remote areas of the state, but also underserved communities, and those don’t have to be in rural areas as we can see right here in Little Rock,” said

SW LR Mobile Clinic

UAMS volunteers work the Southwest Little Rock mobile clinic.Bryan Clifton


Hernandez said they had eight bilingual volunteers, who were recruited with assistance from the consulate and an interpreter from UAMS.

Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. attended the event, which drew 132 patients.

“We’re very grateful to partner with UAMS and the Mexican Consulate to have more targeted testing for all of our residents right here in southwest Little Rock,” said Scott. “This shows the strength of the two organizations and the ability of the city and UAMS to work together. While this drive-thru is for all Little Rock residents, we are being very targeted with our Latino brothers and sisters and doing all we can to meet people where they are here in southwest Little Rock.”

Other officials who attended the event were state Sen. Joyce Elliott, City Director Joan Adcock, state Rep. Fredrick Love, and state Rep. Denise Ennett.