NRC Profile: 3 Doctors Leading COVID-19 Equity Efforts

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun is a member of President Biden’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. This Taskforce is dedicated to addressing and rectifying the racial and ethnic health disparities made apparent by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Dr. Khaldun is the chief medical executive and deputy director of the state health department of Michigan. In 2012, Dr. Khaldun served as a fellow in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Health Reform where she worked with senior Obama Administration officials in 2012 on implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Dr. Khaldun’s experience in both the medical and political spheres make her an exciting choice for the Taskforce as many of the health-initiatives will be influenced by legislation. In a statement about her joining the Taskforce, Dr Khaldun stated: “The virus has had a disproportionate impact on our most vulnerable communities, including communities of color. I look forward to making contributions as part of this task force that will ensure that future pandemic responses do not ignore or exacerbate health inequities.”

Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett is one of the National Institutes of Health’s leading scientists behind the development of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Corbett became a research fellow for the NIH Vaccine Research Center in 2014 and has been working closely with Doctor Fauci since the start of the Pandemic. In March 2020 a group of scientists, including Dr. Corbett met with the President outlining vaccine development. In regards to the meeting, Dr. Corbett stated: “”I felt like it was necessary to be seen and to not be a hidden figure so to speak… It was important to do that because the level of visibility that it would have to younger scientists and also to people of color who have often worked behind the scenes and essentially done the dirty work for these large efforts toward a vaccine.” Dr. Kizzmekia’s work and statements about the COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna have served as instrumental in getting communities of color all over the country to trust the science behind the vaccine. Dr. Corbett said: ‘This person who looks like you has been working on this for several years and I also wanted it to be visible because I wanted people to understand that I stood by the work that I’d done for so long as well.” The work of Dr. Corbett has been instrumental in helping to end the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Dr. Ala Stanford is the founder of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, an education and advocacy based initiative to reduce the disproportionately high numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths in African American communities. In the early days of the pandemic, Dr. Stanford and a few colleagues were testing people for COVID-19 on the streets of Philadelphia in the back of a rented van. This operation quickly grew and became a campaign to provide free testing in neighborhoods where individuals would otherwise have no access to the service. This campaign, now the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, includes several doctors, nurses, and churches all working to provide free testing to their communities.

When asked what drove Stanford to mobilize the BDCC, she responded: “In Philadelphia, African Americans represent 44 percent of the population, but at last check, 52 percent of the deaths. For me, that was unacceptable.” The people she serves are working class and have little access to healthcare facilities that provide services like testing for COVID-19. Dr. Stanford and the Consortium have been vital to providing data on cases in Philadelphia, and how the pandemic has disproportionately affected communities of color. BDCC is currently in the process of organizing a COVID-19 vaccine distribution throughout communities in Philadelphia. Stanford hopes the Consortium will inspire more community based initiatives to pop up around the country and hopes the sentiment of “I just couldn’t stand watching it on the news every day and not doing anything,” is shared.

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