During the past year, COVID-19 has plunged the world into a pandemic that has had scientific and social consequences of unpredictable proportions For a long time, I felt inundated with death stories, of trauma and loss from all angles Especially in the black community I felt like every black face I saw in the news was followed by a heartbreaking tragic story Black people do not have the limitless ability to reading or living with trauma in our communities Interacting with the news cycle was so demoralizing Until I ran into stories about you
Suddenly, amid debates over sanitizing groceries and trackers that minimized human lives in a COVID-19 death tally, I learned about you and your work A black woman and viral immunologist working at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to help develop and design the vaccine in collaboration with Moderna While many people worked on this feat, having someone who looks like me and understands the unique circumstances of the community I come from felt particularly impactful
Your specific work with the creation of the vaccine, which would offer the most effective solution to end the COVID-19 pandemic, helped put into perspective the fact that this pandemic would not last permanently. You literally existed as a solution-oriented glimmer of the fact that this devastation would end at some point I cannot fully describe how much hope and optimism helped convey to me, as well as many other blacks across the country, as we continue to see how this virus has decimated so many people in our community.
You understand that for this scientific innovation to have its most optimal impact, the most vulnerable people had to trust it and use it
I deeply admire that your work with the vaccine did not start and stop in the halls of your NIH lab You understood that for this groundbreaking scientific innovation to have its most optimal impact, the most vulnerable people had to trust it and use it. You have contributed so much to communication and advocacy on this vaccine with high-risk populations
At the start of the pandemic, some black people had justified skepticism about the vaccine You did not label us as “anti-science«You haven't dismissed us as medically suspicious You haven't forgotten us You've used a multimodal approach to enlighten and educate people across the county to allay their fears about this vaccine You've created Twitter threads You've spoken with pastors You made the front page of the urban community forums You found different ways (virtual) meet people where they need to give them evidence to make their own decisions about which vaccines would be best for their families and their health.
In my personal opinion, representation only matters when individuals use their platforms and power to help uplift others in their community. It inspires me deeply how, despite all the prestige you have received, you have never deviated from making the black community, and other underserved communities, a focal point of your scientific mission.
In the past year, you have greatly inspired my professional and personal work I am currently completing a master's degree in a graduate field in science and health I also write about health (and how it often intersects with social justice) Your professional conduct has really shown me a role model that I now emulate in my own professional life
When I study or search for information, I instinctively think about how I can translate this information one day to concretely benefit my community, as you did with vaccine science. When I write about health topics, especially less than optimistic subjects, I try to maintain a solution-oriented mindset and approach, the same way you focused on a vaccine solution in the midst of the COVID-19 chaos. When I envision my future career, I want to combine science and health discovery and innovation with community awareness and education. Like you I want to make sure that any work I do can be integrated into my community Like you
With many other young black women in the fields of health and science, I feel so lucky to have a high profile woman like you to admire and shape our career on. It can seem so difficult to work and study in spaces where so few people are like you or really understand the context of the communities you live in and come from Having someone like you offers a map on how to authentically navigate in these spaces offers such an intangible gift It helps me imagine that a professionally successful and personally fulfilling career can be a reality
Thank you very much for having had such an inspiring life When I think about my future, I hope to adopt many of the principles you seem to live by. I also hope that I can one day make progress in symbiosis in the scientific and medical community as you did with the development and advocacy of the COVID-19 vaccine
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