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July 30, 2020

Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death.

Martin Luther King

The pandemic has had profound effects on us allthe social isolation, economic impact and health effects have been unprecedented. It has also been a stark example of the disparities in healthcare between the privileged and some of the most vulnerable segments of our population.

This forum focuses on lessons COVID-19 is teaching us about health disparities in America. Our distinguished panel is composed of three leading experts in medicine, healthcare delivery and government policy.


We have created 11 videos from this forum--one of the whole event, and 10 others, divided by topic. They are all available by clicking on the image of the YouTube video screen below. Then, you can either click "play all" on the left side of your screen and the videos will play in succession, or pick and choose which videos you want to watch, all of which are listed on the right.




With more than 30 years of experience in public health, Dr. Mary T. Bassett (HR '74) has dedicated her career to advancing health equity. Dr. Bassett is currently the Director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University and the FXB Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Prior to joining the FXB Center, she served as New York City’s Commissioner of Health from 2014 to 2018. 

Dr. Bassett’s many awards and honors include the prestigious Frank A. Calderone Prize in Public Health, a Kenneth A. Forde Lifetime Achievement Award from Columbia University, and election to the National Academy of Medicine.

She received her B.A. in History and Science from Harvard University and her M.D. from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. She served her medical residency at Harlem Hospital Center and has a master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Washington, where she was a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar.


  • Register to vote, as data shows increased voting decreases the health disparity gap.


    Prentiss Taylor Jr., MD, FACP (HR'73), currently serves as Vice President of Medical Affairs at Doctor On Demand, a leading innovative national telemedicine company. There he is currently co-leading national health initiatives with Walmart, Humana, and several other national companies. He is also an attending physician on staff at Advocate Christ Hospital in Metro Chicago.

    He was awarded the Unsung Hero Award by WGN-TV for his volunteer work at a free clinic. Prentiss has volunteered as guest lecturer for the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple Seven program, has spoken to church groups, and has appeared on local radio stations in support of Hypertension Awareness and Control. He is currently leading two Hypertension urban population health initiatives in Atlanta and Detroit through the American College of Preventive Medicine, Henry Ford Health System, and Grady Health System. He has most recently been Medical Director at Advocate Aurora Health Care, the largest health system in the Midwest.

    Prentiss is a graduate of Harvard Medical School and the Kellogg Business School and a Fellow of the American  College of Physicians, board-certified in Internal Medicine and Preventive Medicine.


    • White clinicians should practice empathetic listening with patients of color.
    • Donate to vetted organizations that are making a difference in healthcare disparities.
    • Mentor a young person of color in your career field.



      Al Franken (HR'73) has had an improbably varied career, even for a member of the Harvard class of '73. He made his name as a social satirist, appearing on Saturday Night Live for fifteen seasons during which he wrote most of the political satire and he garnered 5 Emmys and 2 Grammys. He then wrote four New York Times best-selling books and from 2004–2007 was the #1 progressive radio talk show host in the country on Air America radio.

      In 2008, he ran for the US Senate in Minnesota, clobbering incumbent Norm Coleman in the smallest clobbering ever—by 312 votes. Franken was re-elected to the Senate in 2014 by a margin of over 200,000 votes In his 8 1/2 years representing Minnesota in the Senate, Franken led on health care and education reform, on privacy, mandatory arbitration, and the courts. He was co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Rural Health Caucus and a member of the Senate Health Committee.

      In 2019 he began the eponymous Al Franken Podcast which focuses on the most important issues facing our country as we head into the 2020 election.


      • Young people should volunteer and get trained up as poll workers, as many poll workers are older and it’s currently unsafe for them to volunteer. This makes for more voting sites, shorter lines, and reduces voter suppression.
        • Are you a lawyer, paralegal, law student or other legal professional? Sign up to volunteer with Election Protection here.
        • If you aren’t a legal professional, sign up with Election Protection with our nonpartisan poll monitoring program here.


        Vivian Lewis M.D. (HR ’73) is a professor emerita of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the University of Rochester’s School of Medicine and Dentistry, where she has served in several leadership roles in the medical school and the university focused on promoting a more diverse and inclusive faculty and future healthcare workforce. She has numerous publications in the medical literature and has held leadership roles in the National Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and been part of advisory panels for the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Lewis is also a certified leadership coach whose current research focuses on mentoring and professional development – especially for underrepresented minorities and women in the sciences. She is a graduate of Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and a current member of their alumni association board of directors. Her other volunteer activities include the Harvard Club of Rochester and the Black Physicians Network of Greater Rochester.

            ClassACT HR ‘73

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