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Pharmacy Alumni Bring Rapid Testing to St. Louis Metro East

Published on 29 May 2020

On March 27, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued Emergency Use Authorization for the Abbott ID NOW rapid test platform. After deploying test sites in Chicago and Springfield, Illinois, Walgreens recently expanded testing services to Cahokia, Illinois. A group of St. Louis College of Pharmacy alumnae were selected to spearhead testing at the St. Louis metro east location.

Under the supervision of Kellye Holtgrave, B.S. ’90, a district manager for Walgreens, Danika Kingsley, Pharm.D. ’19, and Madelyn Mensing, Pharm.D. ’19, Celia Petroline, Pharm.D. ’14, ran the COVID-19 testing site in the drive-thru parking lot of the Walgreens location in Cahokia.

The team has been offering testing throughout May, with a daily record of 108 patient visits. By May 27, the team tested 1,491 patients.

"We have a great need in our area," Petroline said. "Being able to offer a test that's free and available to the public, whether patients are symptomatic or not, is incredibly important for those who have limited access to health care."

The rapid testing process is straightforward and easy for patients without the invasive swabbing that other tests require. Patients simply drive up to the site, no appointment necessary, where they answer screening questions and self-swab before the sample is put into the ID NOW machine. After instruction from a pharmacist, the patient remains in their car with the window closed during swabbing. They blow their nose in a provided tissue and then insert the cotton swab an inch into each nostril swirling the swab around for three seconds each, all under the supervision of the pharmacist. Results are typically delivered within two hours.

Pharmacists were recently recognized as providers in Illinois, allowing them to conduct simple testing for COVID-19, influenza and strep throat. Provider status leverages a pharmacist's role as the most accessible health care provider and better utilizes their skillset to help alleviate the caseloads that many hospitals are faced with during this time.

"Often, pharmacists are the first people patients come to because we are so accessible," Petroline said. "I think it's great that we were able to set up this site and show the community that their community pharmacists are here for them and are here to work as a team alongside other health care providers."

Throughout the month, Petroline and her team have been working to test as many people as possible.

"We had employees from a local doctor's office come to us to be tested because our rapid results could get them back to work sooner to help more patients," Petroline explained. "They run another testing site just down the street from ours, but they don’t have the same machines as we do, which means their results can take longer. They refer patients to us, and we do the same. It is really nice to have that collaboration."

Though rapid testing is not a perfect test, the tolerated risks associated with it recognize that it is still better than previous options. While the accuracy of rapid testing is still being studied, pharmacists and other health care providers and institutions are closely monitoring new information as it becomes available.

Petroline and her team will continue to administer tests at the Cahokia site through May 31.


St. Louis College of Pharmacy is proud of the health care heroes, many that are alumni and current students at the College, who have stepped up during this pandemic.

The College is committed to sharing these stories to highlight the leadership and selfless dedication demonstrated by members of our community, and to recognize the critical contributions of pharmacists and health care workers.

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