A How-to Guide to Building a Robust SARS-CoV-2 Testing Program at a University-Based Health System

Stephen D. Nimer, Jennifer Chapman, Lisa Reidy, Alvaro Alencar, Yan Yun Wu, Sion Williams, Lazara Pagan, Lauren Gjolaj, Jessica MacIntyre, Melissa Triana, Barbara Vance, David Andrews, Yao Shan Fan, Yi Zhou, Octavio Martinez, Monica Garcia-Buitrago, Carolyn Cray, Mustafa Tekin, Jacob L. McCauley, Philip RuizPaola Pagan, Walter Lamar, Maritza Alencar, Daniel Bilbao, Silvia Prieto, Maritza Polania, Maritza Suarez, Melissa Lujardo, Gloria Campos, Michele Morris, Bhavarth Shukla, Alberto Caban-Martinez, Erin Kobetz, Dipen J. Parekh, Merce Jorda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


When South Florida became a hot spot for COVID-19 disease in March 2020, we faced an urgent need to develop test capability to detect SARS-CoV-2 infection. We assembled a transdisciplinary team of knowledgeable and dedicated physicians, scientists, technologists, and administrators who rapidly built a multiplatform, polymerase chain reaction- and serology-based detection program, established drive-through facilities, and drafted and implemented guidelines that enabled efficient testing of our patients and employees. This process was extremely complex, due to the limited availability of needed reagents, but outreach to our research scientists and multiple diagnostic laboratory companies, and government officials enabled us to implement both Food and Drug Administration authorized and laboratory-developed testing–based testing protocols. We analyzed our workforce needs and created teams of appropriately skilled and certified workers to safely process patient samples and conduct SARS-CoV-2 testing and contact tracing. We initiated smart test ordering, interfaced all testing platforms with our electronic medical record, and went from zero testing capacity to testing hundreds of health care workers and patients daily, within 3 weeks. We believe our experience can inform the efforts of others when faced with a crisis situation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAcademic Pathology
StatePublished - 2020


  • COVID-19
  • academia
  • program
  • testing
  • university

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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