As COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease and communities seek to enter the “new normal,” many of us cannot help but ask: “what will we do if this happens again?”
The reality is that significant pandemics are more common than we might realize. Data shows they’ve hit about every four decades on average over the last 300 years. It’s not a question of “if” we will face another pandemic, but a question of “when.” So what can we as individuals do to learn from the challenges of the last two years and prepare and help protect ourselves, our families, and our communities?
In this session of the Lifting the Fog series, Elise Takahama with the Seattle Times sits down with Dr. Helen Chu, UW Medicine, and Dr. Molly McNairy, Weill Cornell Medicine, to talk about what we have learned over the last two years in the COVID-19 pandemic battle and how we can better prepare to respond to the next pandemic that will face our community.
The Lifting the Fog webinar series is a partnership between the Murdock Trust and the Seattle Times. Its purpose is to help bring clarity to complex challenges facing our community by providing data-backed resources, addressing inaccurate information, and sharing tangible actions individuals can apply in their day-to-day lives.
Dr. Helen Chu – Panelist – Associate Professor of Medicine, UW Medicine
Dr. Chu is Associate Professor at the University of Washington Schools of Medicine and Public Health, and an expert on respiratory viruses and vaccines. She has made substantial contributions to the COVID response in Washington State. Along with a team of scientists, she leads the Seattle Flu Study, a study focused on pandemic preparedness which first identified COVID-19 community transmission in the United States. She established the first cohort of COVID-19 survivors in the United States, which allowed for major early contributions to development of treatments and vaccines for SARS-CoV-2. She has worked closely with local public schools in Snohomish, Seattle, and Yakima to do studies in young children to understand testing and school-based transmission, and has led the Husky Coronavirus Testing program, the testing program for University of Washington students, faculty, and staff. She has also worked with multiple other underserved populations including the homeless populations in Seattle. She serves on the NIH Expert Working Groups for Maternal COVID Vaccines, COVID, and Respiratory Viruses. As an acknowledgment of her contribution to the state-wide COVID response, she received the Researcher of the Year Award from the Puget Sound Business Journal, the SHERO award from the National Organization for Women, the UW School of Public Health Changemakers Award, the Seattle Mariners Hometown Hero Award, the Seattle Seahawks 12 Flag Raiser, and the Washingtonian of the Year Award from the State of Washington.
Dr. Molly McNairy – Panelist – Associate Professor, Weill Cornell Medicine Center for Global Health
Dr. McNairy is a global health physician scientist with over 15 years’ experience as a front-line doctor and public health researcher. She is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell in the Center for Global Health and an attending physician at New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. She graduated from Harvard Medical School and completed her training at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She also completed a Fulbright Scholarship in health economics at the London School of Economics and the London School of Tropical Medicine.
Dr. McNairy brings expertise in international epidemics having worked as a physician providing direct medical care to patients living with HIV, tuberculosis, cholera, malaria and COVID-19 across Africa, India, Haiti, and New York City. Since March 2020, she has treated COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized in New York City, and she leads research on COVID-19 and cardiovascular risks. She has published extensively on how COVID-19 has affected physician wellbeing, medical education, and long-term patient outcomes. In addition, she has consulted organizations and schools on COVID reopening plans, outbreak preparedness, and workplace safety and wellness. She has received awards for her work and mentorship of trainees, and her research has been funded by the NIH, CDC, and numerous foundations. She lives in New York City with her husband and three children ages 5, 8 and 11.
Elise Takahama – Moderator – The Seattle Times Health Reporter
Elise Takahama covers health and hospitals at The Seattle Times and has been reporting on the pandemic for the past two years, including how health care systems have responded to staff shortages and high patient loads, how the state sequences genomes and how local COVID policies have unfolded. Prior to the health beat, she covered crime and breaking news in Seattle.