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HEALTH DISPARITIES AND THE COVID-19 VACCINE

May 20, 2021

7pm - 8:30pm ET


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For the third time since the Covid-19 pandemic began, ClassACT examines the impacts of the virus on racial and ethnic groups and among under-served populations across the globe and within the United States. Now, with the remarkable development of multiple vaccines to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, we turn to the topic of vaccine development and distribution to explore how we may address the worldwide health disparities that the pandemic has dramatically exacerbated. Our moderators and panelists, drawn from a broad spectrum of expertise in global health issues, will examine aspects of vaccine development, distribution and access that intensify health disparities and those that may promote health equity.

Dr. Johnson Lightfoote ’73, Chair, Commission for Women and Diversity, American College of Radiology, and Dr. Deborah (Debbie) Winn ’73, Retired Acting Director, Division of Cancer Prevention, National Cancer Institute, will co-moderate our distinguished panel, composed of leading experts on vaccine development, international health strategy and policy, and the elimination of racial health disparities: Dr. Uché Blackstock ’99, MD ’05, Founder and CEO of Advancing Health Equity; Dr. Kenneth Chien ’73, Distinguished Professor of the Swedish Research Council, Karolinska Institutet and Co-Founder of Moderna, Inc; and Nina Schwalbe ’88, Principal at Spark Street Advisors, a global health think tanks. 

Check out our video teaser below, created by classmate and videographer Rick Brotman!

OUR MODERATOR AND PANELISTS

MODERATOR JOHNSON LIGHTFOOTE  HR'73, MD, MBA, FACR

Johnson Lightfoote HR'73, HMS '76, Pepperdine M.B.A.’90, completed his medical training at Stanford, UCSF, and UC Irvine. He worked in academic radiology at USC and in private practice, currently as Medical Director of the Department of Radiology at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center in Southern California. He is involved in leadership roles as president of the California Radiological Society and at the National Medical Association. Johnson serves on the American College of Radiology Board of Chancellors as Chair of the Commission for Women and Diversity, whose mission is to improve diversity, inclusion and representation in the radiological professions.


MODERATOR DEBORAH WINN HR'73, PHD

Dr. Deborah (Debbie) Winn recently retired from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dr. Winn held leadership positions at NCI including Acting Director of the Division of Cancer Prevention and Deputy Director of the Division of Cancer Control and Population Science whose missions were to conduct and support research at NCI and at institutions across the U.S. In those positions she had a critical role in the planning, priority setting, development and management of large programs in cancer epidemiology, prevention, and control and made important contributions to trans-NCI or NIH initiatives such as the Cancer Moonshot℠ and the All of Us Research Program. Prior to that she was the Deputy Director of the Division of Health Interview Statistics at the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where she had key roles in the development and conduct of large national health surveys. Dr. Winn earned her Ph.D. in epidemiology from the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her bachelor’s degree is from Radcliffe College. Dr. Winn is a Fellow of the American College of Epidemiology. She is the recipient of numerous awards in recognition of her research and professional service such as the NCI Director’s Champion Career/Lifetime Achievement Award for Exceptional Leadership and Service to the National Cancer Institute and numerous NIH Merit Awards.

UCHÉ BLACKSTOCK, H'99, HMS'05

@uche_blackstock

Dr. Uché Blackstock is a physician and thought leader on bias and racism in health care. She is the Founder and CEO of Advancing Health Equity, which partners with healthcare and related organizations to address racism in healthcare and to eradicate racial health inequities, through trainings and consulting services.

In 2019, Dr. Blackstock was recognized by Forbes magazine as one of “10 Diversity and Inclusion Trailblazers You Need to Get Familiar With”. In 2020, she was one of thirty-one inaugural leaders awarded an unrestricted grant for her advocacy work from the Black Voices for Black Justice Fund.

Dr. Blackstock’s writing has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, Scientific American, the Washington Post and STAT News for the Boston Globe. Since June 2020, she has been a Yahoo News Medical Contributor and appears regularly on cable and broadcast news programming to discuss the Coronavirus pandemic and to amplify the message around racial health inequities.

She is a former Associate Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine and the former Faculty Director for Recruitment, Retention and Inclusion in the Office of Diversity Affairs at NYU School of Medicine. She left her faculty position at NYU School of Medicine in December 2019 after almost 10 years to focus on Advancing Health Equity.

Dr. Blackstock received both her undergraduate and medical degrees from Harvard University. She currently lives in her hometown of Brooklyn, New York with her two small children.

KENNETH CHIEN HR'73, MD, PHD

Kenneth R. Chien is an American doctor and medical scientist who has been a research director at Karolinska Institutet, in Stockholm, since 2013. His area of expertise is cardiovascular science, and he has been credited with the discovery of the multipoint heart progenitors which build the human heart.

Professor Chien is a third generation Harvard alumnus, following his father and grandfather, and earned his BA from Harvard College in Biology in 1973. He earned his PhD and MD from Pennsylvania’s Temple University, and continued to study internal medicine and cardiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Chien became a member of the faculty at the University of California at San Diego, acting as Director of the Institute for Molecular Medicine from 2000 to 2005, with an adjunct appointment as a Professor of the Salk Institute. Chien then worked as Scientific Director of the Cardiovascular Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital from 2005 to 2021, concurrent to directing the Cardiovascular Program of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute from 2007 to 2013. In 2013 Chien received a Presidential appointment as Professor of Medicine and Cell and Molecular Biology and Director of the Wallenberg-Cardiovascular Initiative at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.

He has over three decades of experience as a Scientific Advisory Board senior member in the biotechnology sector, and his work as Director of the Cardiovascular Program of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute led to his co-founding, in 2010, of Moderna Therapeutics. In 2011, the Chien lab made the discovery of the high efficiency expression of the VEGF mRNA in heart muscle, resulting in a patent on the discovery that triggered mRNA towards therapeutic applications. In 2013, Chien and his associates documented the ability of VEGF mRNA for coronary vascular regeneration and to reverse the onset of heart dysfunction, thereby opening the potential of using synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA) to produce therapeutic desired effects in a patient’s muscle cells. In February 2019, AstraZeneca and the Chien Lab reported the first human study of an mRNA therapeutic, noting reversal of vascular dysfunction in diabetic patients by VEGF mRNA. At Karolinska, the Chien lab documented the ability to generate large numbers of human Islet ventricular heart progenitor cells from human embryonic stem cells, which resulted in a partnership with AstraZeneca to move the project toward clinical application.

For his work, Professor Chien has received several awards. Chien is a recipient of the Walter Bradford Cannon Award of the American Physiological Society and the Pasarow Award. He is a member of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences, the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and has received an honorary doctorate of science from the University of Edinburgh.

NINA SCHWALBE, H'88

@nschwalbe


Nina is the principal at Spark Street Advisors, a global health think tank that brings together evidence and excellence in analytic thinking and supports clients to improve effectiveness and outcomes, maximize impact of investments, and drive the intersection between strategy, policy and advocacy. She has held numerous leadership positions in public health, including as Managing Director for Policy and Performance at Gavi, the vaccine alliance, where she led Gavi’s work in strategic planning, policy development, market-shaping, performance management, and monitoring and evaluation. She also served as the principal advisor and Acting Chief of Health at UNICEF, overseeing their health programs in over 150 countries and was the Director of Public Health Programs for the network of George Soros’ Open Society Foundations. Nina teaches on the faculty at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations and currently serves as a Principal Visiting Fellow at the United Nations International Institute for Global Health. She currently co-leads a WHO's Research Network on COVID in educational institutions and is Commissioner for the Lancet on gender and health.

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