How many of us have looked at the rising COVID-19 cases in our communities and wondered, “What can I do to help?” Eighteen-year-old Taft Foley III turned that thought into action, starting his own mobile COVID-19 testing lab.
Foley got the urge to help after watching videos of 9/11, which happened before he was born. “The one thing that stuck out to me the most was that, as one of the towers fell and the dust rose, you could see people running away from the fire and the danger. But there were also people running toward the building,” he says. Adding, “This scene profoundly influenced my sense of duty, honor, and courage.”
Last summer, at just 17 years old, Foley III became the youngest EMT in Texas. He cared for many desperately sick COVID-19 patients in the back of an ambulance. “It was pretty scary,” he says. “They were in very bad shape. People were almost unable to breathe at all.”
After he completed the clinical portion of EMT training, Foley III had to get a COVID-19 test. He noted the 3- to 4-hour waits at the state’s testing centers, and the 2 weeks it took to get his results. “During those 2 weeks, I was quarantined. I said, ‘There has to be a better way.’”
He raised $60,000 (by selling his vintage comic books and video game collection, doing yard work in the neighborhood, among other things), which his father matched, and used the money to buy a van and testing supplies. While finishing his senior year of high school, he spends 20 hours a week working in his Texas Mobile Medical Labs vehicle, bringing 15-minute COVID-19 tests to anyone in the Houston area who needs one. He charges a $150 fee to those who can pay. A portion of that fee goes to fund free tests for the elderly, homeless, and veterans in the community. To date, the business has provided more than 4,000 free tests. “I’d like to think that I am having a big impact — making the Houston area a little bit safer,” he says.
As for life after high school, he has an impressive list of potential colleges: Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Columbia, and Princeton. “I’d like to become a trauma surgeon or plastic surgeon,” he says. “As long as I can save lives and help other people, I’ll be a happy person.”
WebMD Exclusive: Our 2021 Health Hero Gets Personal
Who is your hero?
My father, because he was able to break the cycle of poverty he was born into to become a successful person.
If you could do anything to help others, what would you do?
I would start educational programs to tutor and mentor youth, to help break the cycle of poverty in African American communities.
What is your dream job?
I would feel quite accomplished and happy if I were able to improve the lives of others using medicine.
What do you do to relax?
I like to sleep, read, and talk to my friends.
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