Baylor Lab Partners with Phoenix Air, US Department of State

Not long after Baylor faculty member and scientist Dr. Elizabeth Forrester engineered a plan to test COVID-19 samples in the lab she shares with Dr. Dawn Richards last spring, the two scientists received an unexpected call from the U.S. Department of State.

“The first call actually came from a local judge, and after a few connections, I ended up talking with someone representing the state department,” says Dr. Forrester, who took the original call. It turned out that the officials were looking for some help with the efforts of Phoenix Air Group, a unique international aircraft service based in Cartersville, Ga., that offers solutions to a wide range of air transportation needs for both industry and government.

“Phoenix Air Group provides rapid response coverage for the state department worldwide,” says Dr. Douglas Olson, medical director for Phoenix Air. “We repatriate Americans back to the U.S. from anywhere in the world, including those with highly infectious diseases such as Ebola or COVID-19. Baylor’s lab was introduced to us by one of our medical crew, flight paramedic Dan Odom, who lives in the Chattanooga area. Because of the nature of our business, we need rapid COVID-19 testing for crews leaving the country, as well as for any of our staff who might become symptomatic.”

I cannot overstate the importance Baylor has played in keeping our teams mission-ready. This mission-readiness has saved lives by allowing us to leave the country quickly and bring very sick Americans home.

Richards says couriers bring specimens from Phoenix Air to the Baylor Esoteric and Molecular Lab often, sometimes twice in one day. The testing of those specimens is given priority, and results are emailed to Phoenix Air, sometimes in as little as three hours. “They usually send a small number of samples, so we run them as a stat and try to get to them immediately,” explains Richards. “The system of national testing is often stressed, so our personal service is a good choice over commercial labs. We take care of Phoenix Air because we appreciate their work, and we understand how important it is.”

“I cannot overstate the importance Baylor has played in keeping our teams mission-ready,” continues Dr. Olson. “This mission-readiness has saved lives by allowing us to leave the country quickly and bring very sick Americans home. We continue to appreciate the great value of our collaboration with the Baylor Esoteric and Molecular Laboratory.”

“When we started this endeavor, we had no visions of its growing into what the lab is today,” Forrester reflects. “There were lots of obstacles along the way that we had to fight through. We see now that being able to partner with a group like Phoenix Air is why we fought. Our relationship with them has been one of the most fulfilling parts of this whole project. They’re the best at what they do, and we want to help the best keep doing their best.”

“The biggest component of all of this work for Elizabeth and me has always been supporting our community,” adds Richards. “Phoenix Air is part of a much larger community and is definitely part of the greater good. To us, it feels like we’re amplifying Baylor’s mission of making a positive difference in the world.”