U.S. Pandemic Response: What Will It Take to Do Better?

040 Trent Hall, plus Zoom webinar


U.S. Pandemic Response: What Will It Take to Do Better?

040 Trent Hall, plus Zoom webinar

A host of social and political forces drove the United States’ poor response to COVID-19 compared to its peer nations. The disease killed over 1 million Americans—16% of the world’s deaths in a nation with just 4% of the world’s population. There were also huge disparities in COVID-19’s impact on poor and vulnerable populations. But would the country be any better off if another pandemic struck? The authors of a comprehensive analysis of the U.S. COVID response, published this spring by the BMJ, will discuss why things went so wrong – and what critical steps need to be taken to transform U.S. public health and preparedness to prevent mass death in a future pandemic.

Moderated by DGHI professor Gavin Yamey, who co-edited the BMJ series with professor Ana Diez Roux at Drexel University, this event will be a forward-looking discussion featuring leading public researchers across the U.S. They will explore how systemic racism and economic inequality contributed to Covid-19 disparities; mass incarceration and poor prison health as a driver of the pandemic; labor market inequalities; the legal infrastructure for pandemic response; and the diminished role of the public sector. Not simply a rehash of past events, or a finger-pointing exercise to assign blame, the discussion will offer concrete actions that can improve U.S. population health and ensure the country is better equipped to deal with the next public health crises.


Gavin Yamey, MD, MPH, (moderator) is the Director of the Center for Policy Impact in Global Health based in DGHI. He is the Hymowitz Professor of the Practice of Global Health at DGHI and a Professor of the Practice of Public Policy in the Duke Sanford School of Public Policy. Yamey is Associate Director for Policy at DGHI. He is on the core faculty of the Duke Margolis Center for Health Policy and affiliate faculty of Duke Science and Society. He is the Faculty Director for the Duke Global Policy (DGP) Program in Geneva, and leads the global health track in the DGP program. He is on the advisory board of the World Food Policy Center at Duke. He trained in clinical medicine at Oxford University and University College London, medical journalism and editing at the BMJ and public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He was Deputy Editor of the Western Journal of Medicine, Assistant Editor at the BMJ, a founding SeniorEditor of PLOS Medicine, and the Principal Investigator on a $1.1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support the launch of PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Mary Bassett, MD, MPH, is the Director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, as well as the FXB Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health. With more than 30 years of experience in public health, Dr. Bassett has dedicated her career to advancing health equity. Prior to her directorship at the FXB Center, Dr. Bassett served for four years as commissioner of Health for New York City. As commissioner, she worked to ensure that every New York City neighborhood supported the health of its residents, with the goal of closing gaps in population health across the city.

Keisha Bentley-Edwards, PhD, is an associate professor at Duke University’s School of Medicine and a DGHI affiliate. She is associate director of research and director of the Health Equity Working Group for the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity. Dr. Bentley-Edwards is a developmental psychologist whose interdisciplinary research focuses on how race, gender and racism stress influence social, health and academic outcomes. Her work has particularly focused upon the development of culturally relevant measurement and research that addresses racial/ethnic socialization, racial cohesion and dissonance and the intersection of race and gender throughout the lifespan. Her current NIH funded project investigates the role of religion on cardiovascular disease risk factors for African Americans.

Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Population Health Sciences at the Duke School of Medicine. She is a national expert in examining how the criminal legal system impacts people, families, and communities. During the pandemic, she co-founded the COVID Prison Project, one of the only national data projects that tracks and analyzes COVID testing, cases, and deaths in prison systems across the country. She utilized the infrastructure of the COVID Prison Project to recently launch the Third City Project—a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded big data project that tracks and aggregates publicly available health and health policy data from carceral systems. Dr. Brinkley-Rubinstein is the PI of several NIH and foundation grants focused on substance use, HIV prevention, and mortality. In 2019, Her work has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, ProPublica, CNN, Science Magazine, and other media outlets.

Jocalyn Clark, PhD, is International Editor for The British Medical Journal. A leading editor, writer and public health scientist devoted to research and organisational impact and equity in global health, she has proven expertise and leadership in the social determinants of health, gender equity, and evidence-based policy and strategy in health across editorial and research environments. Previously she was an Executive Editor of The Lancet and Executive Editor at the global health research organisation icddr,b in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Since 2006 she has been an adjunct professor of medicine at the University of Toronto and since 2022 an honorary associate professor at University College London (UCL). In 2018 she founded Canadian Women in Global Health (#CWIGH) initiative to recognise, diversify and improve visibility of women’s expertise. In 2019 she was elected to the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

Ana Diez Roux, MD, PhD, MPH, is a Distinguished University Professor of Epidemiology at Drexel University and Director of the Drexel Urban Health Collaborative. Dr. Diez Roux was Dean of the Dornsife School of Public Health from 2013-2023. Originally trained as a pediatrician in her native Buenos Aires, she completed public health training at the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health. Before joining Drexel University, she served on the faculties of Columbia University and the University of Michigan, where she was Chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Director of the Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health. Dr. Diez Roux is internationally known for her research on the social determinants of population health and the study of how neighborhoods affect health. Her work on neighborhood health effects has been highly influential in the policy debate on population health and its determinants. Her research areas include social epidemiology and health disparities, environmental health effects, urban health, psychosocial factors, cardiovascular disease epidemiology, social environment-gene interactions, and the use of multilevel methods and complex systems approaches in population health.

Michelle Mello, PhD, JD, is a leading empirical health law scholar whose research is focused on understanding the effects of law and regulation on health care delivery and population health outcomes. She holds a joint appointment at the Stanford University School of Medicine in the Department of Health Policy. Mello is the author of more than 250 articles on medical liability, public health law, the public health response to COVID-19, pharmaceuticals and vaccines, data ethics and privacy, biomedical research ethics and governance, and other topics. Her publications appear in medical, health policy, and law journals, and she serves on the Editorial Boards of JAMA Health Forum and the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law. In 2013, Mello was elected to the National Academy of Medicine (then called the Institute of Medicine), one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine, in recognition of outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service.

David Michaels, PhD, MPH, is an epidemiologist and professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health. He served as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health under President Barack Obama and Assistant Secretary of Energy for Environment, Safety and Health under President Bill Clinton. Dr. Michaels is a leader in efforts to protect the integrity of the science underpinning public health and environmental protections. His most recent book on the subject The Triumph of Doubt: Dark Money and the Science of Deception (Oxford University Press, 2020) was called “a tour de force” by Science Magazine and “a brave and important book,” by Nature.  He is also the author of  Doubt is Their Product, which was published by Oxford University Press in 2008. Throughout his career, Dr. Michaels has focused on the health of disadvantaged communities and the impact of infectious diseases on underserved populations.  He founded and directed the Epidemiology Unit of the Montefiore-Rikers Island Health Service, the first such unit in a jail in the United States, conducting studies on tuberculosis, sexually-transmitted diseases, drug abuse, mental health, homelessness and HIV.

This is a hybrid event with both in-person and remote attendance options. Attendance in person is encouraged. Lunch will be available.