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COVID Community Connection

Join YCCI and the Yale Cultural Ambassadors for an opportunity to get the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 from some of the nation’s leading experts on the subject. This webinar is appropriate for everyone but will highlight the importance of vaccination for the African American and Hispanic communities, which are three times more likely to be hospitalized and twice as likely to die from COVID-19. Here is your opportunity to ask questions and express your concerns.

If you are not able to attend the Zoom, we will be live streaming on our Facebook page.

COVID Community Connection A series of virtual town hall webinars hosted by Yale & the Yale Cultural Ambassadors.
Mar 20213Wednesday
5:30 PM6:30 PM
Everyone (Public)
RADM Richardae Araojo - Nancy J. Brown, MD - Leroy Perry - Elvin Clayton - Marcella Nunez-Smith, MD, MHS - Onyema Ogbuagu, MBBCh, FACP, FIDSA - Thomas Balcezak, MD - Allen Hsiao, MD, FAAP - Tesheia Johnson

COVID Community Connection Speakers

  • Dean, Yale School of Medicine, C.N.H. Long Professor of Internal Medicine

    Dr. Nancy J. Brown, recently appointed as the C.N.H. Long Professor of Internal Medicine, is an internationally renowned educator, investigator, and clinician. Her appointment will be effective Feb. 1, pending approval by the School of Medicine Board of Permanent Officers. In September, Brown was named the next dean of the Yale School of Medicine. She will assume that post on Feb. 1.

    A Yale College graduate, Brown is currently the Hugh Jackson Morgan Professor and chair of the Department of Medicine at Vanderbilt University.

    Brown majored in molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale and earned her medical degree at Harvard University. After completing internship and residency programs at Vanderbilt University, she joined its faculty, engaging in both clinical care and research.

    While taking on increased leadership responsibilities and mentoring scores of Vanderbilt students, residents, and fellows, Brown has led a research program in cardiovascular pharmacology, which has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1993. Among her research contributions, she has defined the molecular mechanisms through which commonly prescribed blood pressure and diabetes drugs affect the risk of cardiovascular and kidney disease. She has continued to care for patients, especially those with resistant and secondary forms of hypertension, and to mentor the next generation of physician-scientists.

  • Pastor, St. Stephens AME Zion Church, Branford, CT Cultural Ambassador to the Yale Clinical Research program

    The Reverend Dr. Leroy O. Perry is the Pastor of St. Stephens AME Zion Church. He earned his BA from Livingstone College, his MDiv from Yale Divinity, STM and doctoral degree from New York Theological Seminary in New York City.

    He served on Mayor O'Leary's commission for diversity study for the City of Waterbury, and as chairman of the Clergy Support committee for Waterbury Opportunities Industrialization Center, where he worked to foster Black economic development in the area. Presently he serves as the director of the Fatherhood Program at New Opportunities in Waterbury, CT.

    Although he was aware of health care disparities before becoming a Cultural Ambassador, he was not aware of the clinical research conducted at Yale. Like many African Americans of his generation, there was a historical stigma dating back to the Tuskegee Study that stymied his interest in clinical research.

    He was pleased to discover that YCCI wanted to establish a partnership with the community that is built on an informed and clear definition of policies, procedures, and practices regarding clinical research. He is now an ambassador for YCCI and serves as an advocate within the African American community in particular and the larger minority communities in general. He feels the partnership with Yale is a valuable learning exchange and a necessary adhesive needed to bridge an effective community relationship for the advancement of clinical research.

  • Walter's Memorial AME Zion Church, Bridgeport, CT Cultural Ambassador to the Yale Clinical Research program

    Reverend Clayton is a native of Waterbury Connecticut, where he attended the local schools and graduated from W. F. Kaynor Regional Technical Vocational School. Reverend Clayton worked in the automotive refinishing business for 25 years. He began his pastoral vocation in 1983, after years of a passionate pursuit of music that included playing in church. He matriculated at Slidell and Hartford Seminaries and completed his Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Hartford Hospital. He was the Pastor of Redeemers Church in Plainville for 18 years and is now the Pastor of Walter's Memorial Church, Bridgeport, CT.

    Reverend Clayton became a Cultural Ambassador so that he could help raise awareness of the importance of clinical trials for his community. The program has taught him the importance of diversity among clinical trial participants to include people of different ethnic backgrounds, as well as women and children.

  • Associate Professor of Medicine Yale School of Medicine

    Dr. Ogbuagu is a Associate Professor of Medicine, in the clinician-educator track and Director of the HIV Clinical Trials program of the Yale AIDS Program, Section of Infectious Diseases of the Yale School of Medicine.

    Dr. Ogbuagu’s clinical responsibilities include educating and training medical students, residents and infectious diseases fellows in various capacities in inpatient and outpatient settings; and through structured course work and other teaching sessions. As a faculty of the HIV training track of the Yale-Internal Medicine primary care program and for over 6 years as a faculty of the Human Resources for Health program in Rwanda, he has extensive experience with curriculum development, structuring of residency training programs, and mentoring residents and faculty. In Rwanda specifically, he has and continues to mentor medical residents and junior faculty in quality improvement and clinical research projects that are locally relevant and addressing important infectious diseases-related problems (particularly HIV/AIDS and antimicrobial resistance).
    Furthermore, he has facilitated meaningful educational and research collaborations between faculty and trainees across institutions. As the program director of World Bank and HRSA-funded efforts supporting the Liberia College of Physicians and surgeons (LCPS)–run Internal medicine residency training program, he has overseen the selection and deployment of faculty to Liberia, and is responsible for educational programs and activities aimed at strengthening the residency training program. Overall, his expertise and collective experiences to date have positioned him to design and run successful projects around capacity building in low-resource settings including developing and implementing innovative and robust medical training and research programs for faculty, fellows, residents and students.

    For 5 years now, he has been the Director of the Yale AIDS Program HIV clinical trials program, and a principal investigator on numerous pharmacokinetic, phase 2 and 3 safety and efficacy trials of novel antiviral compounds (HIV). More, recently, given the alarming rate of new infections among men who have sex with men (MSM), he has focused on HIV prevention trials including being a co-principal investigator on a Yale CIRA funded project, which has supported the formation of a cohort of men who have sex with men, who are at high risk for HIV and are engaged in HIV PrEP services in order to study the impact of substance use on retention in care and adherence to PrEP. He is also a lead investigator on the international DISCOVER trial evaluating TAF/FTC vs TDF/FTC for HIV prevention among MSM and transgender women.

    In response to the COVID pandemic, he is the Yale principal investigator on multiple investigational therapeutic and preventative clinical trials for COVID-19 including remdesivir (now FDA approved), leronlimab and remdesivir and tocilizumab combination therapy as well as the Pfizer/BioNTech Vaccine trial.

  • Associate Dean for Health Equity Research Associate Professor of Medicine and of Epidemiology Director, Equity Research and Innovation Center Director, Center for Research Engagement

    Dr. Nunez-Smith is Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, Public Health, and Management; Inaugural Associate Dean for Health Equity Research; Founding Director of the Equity Research and Innovation Center (ERIC); Director of the Center for Research Engagement (CRE); Associate Cancer Center Director for Community Outreach and Engagement at Yale Cancer Center; Chief Health Equity Officer at Smilow Cancer Hospital; Deputy Director for Health Equity Research and Workforce Development at the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation; Core Faculty in the National Clinician Scholars Program; Research Faculty in the Global Health Leadership Initiative; Director of the Pozen-Commonwealth Fund Fellowship in Health Equity Leadership; and Co-Director of the Doris Duke Clinical Research Fellowship.

    Dr. Nunez-Smith’s research focuses on promoting health and healthcare equity for structurally marginalized populations with an emphasis on centering community engagement, supporting healthcare workforce diversity and development, developing patient reported measurements of healthcare quality, and identifying regional strategies to reduce the global burden of non-communicable diseases. Dr. Nunez-Smith has extensive expertise in examining the effects of social and structural determinants of health, systemic influences contributing to health disparities, health equity improvement, and community-academic partnered scholarship. In addition to this extensive experience in primary data collection, management, and analysis, ERIC has institutional expertise in qualitative and mixed methods, population health, and medical informatics.

    She is the principal investigator on many NIH and foundation-funded research projects, including an NIH/NCI-funded project to develop a tool to assess patient reported experiences of discrimination in healthcare. She has conducted an investigation of the promotion and retention of diversity in academic medical school faculty and has published numerous articles on the experiences of minority students and faculty. Funded by NIH/NIMHD, she established the Eastern Caribbean Health Outcomes Research Network (ECHORN), a research collaborative across four Eastern Caribbean islands, supporting several chronic disease research projects and enhancing health outcomes research and leadership capacity in the region; the flagship ECHORN Cohort Study recruited and is following a community-dwelling adult cohort (n=3000) to examine novel chronic disease risk and protective factors. She recently received NIH/NHLBI funding to build upon this work by recruiting children into an expanded intergenerational ECHORN cohort, inclusive of a biorepository. She is also PI on one of five NIH/NIMHD-funded Transdisciplinary Collaborative Centers on Health Disparities focused on Precision Medicine, which leverages the ECHORN infrastructure to conduct collaborative research on hypertension and diabetes.

    Most recently, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shed national attention on the health and healthcare disparities of marginalized populations, she was called upon to serve on the Governor’s ReOpen CT Advisory Group and to chair its Community Committee. She served as an Advisor to the Biden-Harris campaign, and subsequently named co-chair of the Biden-Harris Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board and will serve as chair of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force in the administration. She also received NIH funding to leverage ECHORN to improve the COVID-19 testing cascade in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

    Dr. Nunez-Smith has mentored dozens of trainees since completing fellowship and has received numerous awards for teaching and mentoring. She is board certified in internal medicine, having completed residency training at Harvard University’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and fellowship at the Yale Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program, where she also received a Masters in Health Sciences. Originally from the US Virgin Islands, she attended Jefferson Medical College, where she was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society, and she earned a BA in Biological Anthropology and Psychology at Swarthmore College.

  • Special FDA Guest Speaking on Minority Health; Associate Commissioner for Minority Health & Director of the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity in the Office of the Commissioner at the U.S. Food & Drug Administration

    RADM Richardae Araojo serves as the Associate Commissioner for Minority Health and Director of the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (OMHHE) in the Office of the Commissioner at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In this role, RADM Araojo provides leadership, oversight, and direction on minority health and health disparity matters for the Agency. The Office of Minority Health and Health Equity aims to promote and protect the health of diverse populations through research and communication of regulatory science that addresses health disparities.

    RADM Araojo previously served as the Director of the Office of Medical Policy Initiatives (OMPI) in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), where she managed the OMPI immediate office and three divisions. She led a variety of broad-based medical and clinical policy initiatives to improve the science and efficiency of clinical trials and enhance professional and patient labeling. RADM Araojo worked collaboratively with other FDA disciplines, program areas, and FDA centers to foster an interdisciplinary approach to policy development and to enhance the integration of the continuingly evolving science and policy into FDA’s drug development and regulatory review processes. She provided oversight and direction for cross-cutting center and Agency working groups, as well as collaborations with external constituents, to advance medical policy development.

    RADM Araojo joined FDA in 2003, where she held a number of positions in CDER’s Office of New Drugs, first serving in the Division of Psychiatry Drug Products (formerly the Division of Neuropharmacological Drug Products) and then with the Pediatric and Maternal Health Staff (currently the Division of Pediatric and Maternal Health). She then transitioned to the Office of Medical Policy in 2010, where she served as Acting Director of the Division of Medical Policy Programs, Deputy Director of OMPI, and finally Director of OMPI.
    RADM Araojo received her Doctor of Pharmacy Degree from Virginia Commonwealth University, completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency with Emphasis in Community Ambulatory Care at the University of Maryland, and later earned a Master’s degree in Pharmacy Regulation and Policy from the University of Florida.

  • Executive Vice President Chief Clinical Officer Yale New Haven Health System

    A board-certified internist, Dr. Balcezak earned his medical degree from the University of Connecticut and Master’s degree in Public Health from Yale University. He completed his internship and residency training in Internal Medicine at Yale New Haven Hospital, where he also served as Chief Medical Resident. He is an Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine and lecturer in Public Health at the Yale University School of Medicine, Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives and American Board of Internal Medicine.

    As the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Balcezak is responsible for all aspects of medical staff affairs administration, graduate medical education, patient safety and clinical quality, accreditation and regulatory readiness, the Hospitalist service, and care management.

  • Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine Chief Medical Information Officer Yale School of Medicine & Yale New Haven Health Co-Director, CTSA Informatics Core

    As the CMIO, Allen leads a team of physician informaticians responsible for medical leadership of the electronic health record system (EHR) and supporting information technology systems to provide the functionality, clinical decision support, and innovation needed to deliver the best healthcare possible. Allen also oversees the DBAs, data architects, and the Joint Data Analytics Team (JDAT), a team of over 45 analysts that provide the reporting and analytics for the System and the School, supporting operational, clinical, and research reporting and data needs. Current priorities include strategies to address growing physician burnout, patient engagement, population health, and supporting genomic medicine.

    Dr. Hsiao also serves as Informatics co-director for Yale’s CTSA. In this capacity, he works closely with the Yale Center for Clinical Investigations leadership to equip investigators with the tools and information needed for translational and clinical research. This includes leveraging the industry-leading functionalities of their EHR (Epic) system and the Clinical Trials Management System (OnCore) for investigators and patient focused research.

    Complementing his CMIO responsibilities, Allen Hsiao is also Associate Professor of Pediatrics and of Emergency Medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, teaching students, residents and fellows and sees patients in the Pediatric Emergency Department at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital. He received his BA in Biomedical Ethics and MD from Brown University, then completed residency training in Pediatrics at Yale before completing fellowships in Emergency Medicine and Medical Informatics (and is board certified in all three). He serves or has served on numerous medical informatics-related committees for the Hospital and University, as well as nationally for groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, Health Information Management Systems Society, and the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions. Allen has published several articles in the pediatric and healthcare informatics literature and also regularly presents nationally on leveraging the EHR to support research, optimize systems, and improve transitions of care. He has also served as primary investigator or co-investigator on several NIH and AHRQ-funded grants examining the ways health information technology can impact and improve healthcare.

  • Associate Director for Clinical Research Yale School of Medicine, Deputy Director and Chief Operating Office Yale Center for Clinical Investigation

    Tesheia Johnson, MBA, MHS, is Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer of YCCI and the Associate Director for Clinical Research for Yale School of Medicine, where she provides leadership and direction in the area of clinical research. Her career has focused on the development of clinical research programs and support infrastructure. Prior to assuming her current position, she held positions as Assistant Dean for Clinical Research at the University of Vermont College of Medicine and Director of Clinical Trials at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has served as a consultant for several academic centers interested in establishing clinical research programs and as a grant reviewer for the National Institutes of Health.

    Ms. Johnson is nationally recognized for her expertise in the design and setup of clinical research programs. She has been an invited speaker at many national and international conferences on topics such as developing funding for central support for clinical research, staffing models for clinical and translational research, training programs for research professionals, clinical research regulation, and contracting and budget negotiation. She has served as Chair and co-Chair for several National Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) Consortium Group/Committees. She sits on the external scientific advisory boards for the CTSAs at NYU, Washington University, and the Universities of Buffalo, Colorado, Florida, and Washington.