• Published on Oct 21, 2020

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING] JOHN WHYTE: You're watching Coronavirus in Context. I'm Dr. John Whyte, Chief Medical Officer at WebMD. Have you tried to get a COVID test? Did you have to drive somewhere or take public transportation, wait a while? What about a mobile van, uh, and mobile testing to help go closer to you and make it quicker? That would be a good idea, wouldn't it? Well, my next guest has done just that. And did I mention, he's 18 years old? I'm pleased to welcome Taft Foley III. Taft, thanks for joining me.

TAFT FOLEY: Thanks for having me. I'm happy to be here.

JOHN WHYTE: Well, you're 18 years old, and you came up with this idea of an innovative mobile lab. Take us back and-- and tell us how, you know, you thought of this, and-- and then you made it happen.

TAFT FOLEY: Sure. Towards the middle of the summer, I attended an EMT course. And when I got back to Houston, I decided to take a COVID test because I have a little sister, and I didn't want to give her the virus. So I went to a local clinic nearby my house. But when I got there, I was met with a line that snaked around the entire building. And I had to wait two hours just to get inside.

And, uh, I took the test, but I still self-quarantined even though it came back negative, just to stay safe. And in that two-week period, I decided to do some research of my own because I thought to myself, there has to be a better way. And that's when I found Quidel's 15-minute tests.

JOHN WHYTE: Mm-hmm.

TAFT FOLEY: And that's when I really got the idea to go to my patients.

JOHN WHYTE: So you have this idea. You say, hey, I can do better, and I love that philosophy. But then how did-- how did you make it happen? How did you get the van? Didn't you have to include your parents? How did it all come to fruition?

TAFT FOLEY: Well, I definitely got a lot of help from the community, my father especially. I asked my father if he'd be willing to-- to help, and that he told me he'd match the money I raise to get the business going. And, uh, I was able to raise about $60,000.

JOHN WHYTE: Wow.

TAFT FOLEY: That thankfully, I don't think he was expecting me to raise that much money.

JOHN WHYTE: I don't think so. I'm going to be careful to say that to my children. That-- that's a good dad. But OK. So you raised the funds and then take us from there.

TAFT FOLEY: I was able to raise the funds, and, uh, he met it and I was able to get-- to buy the van and purchase some tents.

JOHN WHYTE: And what's been the response of the community?

TAFT FOLEY: Um, there's been a great response from the community. Uh, they've been very happy to support me. A lot of people have come out to take tests and, uh, a lot of people have given me opportunities to take interviews and to advertise and to get the word out about-- about the business. So I've had a great response so far. That-- that's really what the business is designed to serve.

A portion of every tests, the revenue, will go towards a test for the community as in we will be providing free tests to veterans, uh, people who are unable to pay for their own tests, and to senior citizens.

JOHN WHYTE: And you go to them? How do you choose where-- where to-- to bring the van? Can people make appointments? How-- how does it work?

TAFT FOLEY: Yes, sir. It's appointment-based. Our patients will call our phone number or they'll sign up online. And from there, they can schedule when they need to take a test and where we need to be, and we'll be there.

JOHN WHYTE: Now, you're a high school senior. Correct?

TAFT FOLEY: Yes, sir.

JOHN WHYTE: So how do you manage? How do you manage going to school full time and running this innovative mobile testing?

TAFT FOLEY: Well, it's-- it's definitely not easy. It comes down to a lot of time management, but, uh, it's not just me. I have help from my family and people who help me start the business. And so we try to spread the work out as evenly as we can. But I'm still working about 20 hours a week, so it just comes down to balancing my time and managing it as best as I can.

JOHN WHYTE: That is really exciting that-- that you did this. And I should also point out, it's my understanding you're the youngest EMT in the area. Is that correct?

TAFT FOLEY: To my knowledge, yes, sir. I became an EMT at about 17, and I'm not-- I don't know anyone who became an EMT at 17.

JOHN WHYTE: Wow. Now, Taft, a lot of, you know, students your age are-- are playing video games, are, you know, just hanging out with their friends. What inspired you, inspired you to say, you know what? I need to address this problem.

TAFT FOLEY: I wasn't alive when 9/11-- when 9/11 happened, but I've seen a lot of videos of it. And one of the-- one of the aspects of the videos that stood out to me the most is that as people-- as dust rose from the ground and people ran away, you can see the EMTs and the firefighters running towards the smoke and towards the danger. When I have kids and grandchildren, I want to be able to tell them that I ran towards the flames when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. I want to be able to tell them that I was one of the people who ran towards the danger in order to make a change.

JOHN WHYTE: Why did you decide to become an EMT?

TAFT FOLEY: Well, at the beginning of the summer, I took a BLS and ACLS courses because I just wanted to find ways to help people. And I figured that becoming an EMT would be another way that I could help the community as best as I could.

JOHN WHYTE: What-- what else do you do with your free time, Taft? You're going to school, you're an EMT, you're running a business. I understand you're into Scouting. Tell us about that as well.

TAFT FOLEY: Scouting is-- was a phenomenal experience. I'm-- I'm currently an Eagle Scout. I am the first Black Eagle Scout in the 70 year history of my troop.

JOHN WHYTE: Congratulations.

TAFT FOLEY: I've learned a whole lot from Scouting, and it's been a fantastic experience so far.

JOHN WHYTE: Now, what has surprised you by all of this? Know you, have an idea, you made it happen. Anything surprise you?

TAFT FOLEY: Um, well, I was surprised with how much red tape I had to go through. I wasn't expecting it to be as-- as difficult as it was to get where I am. But--

JOHN WHYTE: It's always the red tape, Taft. Oh.

TAFT FOLEY: Sure. I learned that the hard way.

JOHN WHYTE: Mm-hmm.

TAFT FOLEY: I wasn't expecting there to be so much red tape, but, uh, thankfully I was able to get through it with some help and, uh, I'm where I am today.

JOHN WHYTE: And it is an exciting story, Taft. I have to tell you, I've interviewed over 170 people, and I was so excited to talk to you today to-- to hear about what you've been doing at-- at a young age when you saw a need, you found, you know, the resources to do it, and-- and you made it happen. That is really inspirational. And I know all our viewers are thinking that right now. And I'm sure they want to know, what's next for Taft?

TAFT FOLEY: Um, to be honest with you, I'm not entirely sure what's next. Right now, I'm focused on school and keeping the business afloat and getting tests out to people and-- and applying to colleges. But outside of that, I'm-- I'm just going to focus on work for right now.

JOHN WHYTE: Don't want to pressure you. Do you want to go to medical school?

TAFT FOLEY: Absolutely. That's definitely, uh, one of the things I want to do.

JOHN WHYTE: Now, Taft, how can people help you with your mission?

TAFT FOLEY: Um, we're having a little bit of trouble with search engine optimization. And ways people can help a whole bunch with that is they can Google our company, Texas Mobile Medical Labs. That way, when they search for it, um, our specific website will be one of the first things that pops up.

JOHN WHYTE: Texas Mobile Medical Labs. We're going to put it on screen, but I want everyone to remember that and search that right after this video. Well, Taft, I want to congratulate you on what you've done. I want to congratulate your family, as well. As you pointed out, your family has helped you a great deal, as well, and your community. And we need more people like Taft Foley III who sees a problem and figures out a way to solve it. Thanks so much for joining me today.

TAFT FOLEY: Thank you.

JOHN WHYTE: And thank you for watching Coronavirus in Context.