Tougaloo College Hosts Virtual Panel Discussing COVID-19 with Dr. Ashish Jha


By Morgan Bridgeman Student Intern Writer

            On August 10, 2020 at 6 p.m. Tougaloo College hosted an informative COVID-19 virtual panel. The Jackson Heart Study Undergraduate Training and Education Center (JHS UTEC) is the organization at Tougaloo who presented this event. It was also presented by Dr. Wendy White, the Principal Investigator for JHS UTEC, and the Natural Sciences Division where Dr. Jinghe Mao serves as dean. This panel included a host of doctors who have been monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic very closely.

            The panel started with hosts Levell Williams and Cedonia Thomas welcoming all the participants to the event and then introducing the panel. The speakers for this event were Dr. Paul Byers, Mississippi Department of Health (MSDH) epidemiologist, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, State Health Officer with the MSDH, Dr. Marshala Lee, director of the Harrington Value Institute Community Partnership Fund at ChristianaCare, and Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Global Health Harvard Institute. After the introduction of speakers, Tougaloo College President Dr. Carmen J. Walters formally welcomed everyone to the event.

            After the welcome, Thomas asked Dr. Jha about the state of the country as far as COVID-19. Dr. Jha explained that as of now there are about 20 million global cases and a quarter of all those cases are from the U.S. He cited that the United States has all of these cases mainly because the virus is not taken seriously. He also cited that cases are high because of the inequalities in the healthcare system among minorities and poor populations. As this pandemic progresses, we need to look at this thing with an equality lens as well as a pandemic lens,” Dr. Jha stated.

            Dr. Thomas Dobbs began to speak about the current COVID-19 climate in Mississippi. He noted that Mississippi did get left behind on the COVID train simply because they at first focused on travelers instead of focusing on people in the state. He said that now they are focusing on the AfricanAmerican, Latinx and Native American communities who have been affected the most. The fight that Mississippi is in right now is trying to keep hospital rates stabilized and fighting misinformation,” Dr. Dobbs said.

            The first question a participant asked the panel was about pre-existing conditions in the African-American community that contributes to COVID-19 affecting the community more. Dr. Marshala Lee took the reins on this question and explained that pre-existing conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and blood pressure contribute to how COVID affects the community. She also noted that the community is affected also because of healthcare providers being least funded.

            Dr. Lee also answered questions about how HBCUs could help be public health advocates. She suggested that HBCUs could partner with organizations that the black community trusts such as barbershops and churches to help the community be more willing to get their health checks.

            The panel then shifted the discussion to schools and how students could protect themselves. The panel suggested that students should follow the guidance from health officials, be mindful of individuals, wear masks and avoid groups.

            Dr. Dobbs went on to note that pediatricians have helped a lot with the guidance of reopening of schools.

            The panel also touched on the fact that the flu is approaching as COVID-19 is still around. Dr. Byers acknowledged that when the flu comes it can get complicated but at least the flu vaccine exists and hopefully in the near future a COVID-19 vaccine will exist.

            The event concluded with the panel giving their final thoughts on this pandemic.

            Dr. Dobbs urged participants with the final thought of believing what science tells them and not what Facebook or any other social media site tells them

            One of the final thoughts that Dr. Lee gave participants is to stay the course.”

            The panel all concluded that we can get through this together as long as we stay together.


The full video recording of the virtual panel can be viewed here:

[From The Mississippi Link Newspaper:  AUGUST 13 - 19, 2020 Edition, with minor edits.]