Dr. James Hildreth, Meharry Medical College president and CEO, has been named by President Joe Biden as a member of his COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force.
Hildreth, the renowned immunologist and academic administrator and Meharry’s 12th president, sat on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration board that approved the first U.S. coronavirus vaccines.
“I am honored to be chosen by President Biden as a member of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force,” Hildreth said in a statement. “We are facing one of the largest challenges in the history of our nation. COVID-19 has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans, and if adequate steps are not taken, this number will continue to grow.
“As we have seen, COVID-19 does not discriminate, it does not respect borders, and it does not behave according to our timelines,” Hildreth added.
The United States has reported more than 28.1 million cases of the virus, and the death toll is nearing 500,000.
Immediately following his Jan. 21 swearing-in, Biden issued a national strategy for the COVID-19 response and pandemic preparedness.
“For the past year, we could not turn to the federal government for a national plan to answer prayers with action – until today,” Biden said.
He then issued a 200-page report outlining a national strategy to beat the pandemic.
The president called it a comprehensive plan that starts with restoring public trust and mounting an aggressive, safe, and effective vaccination campaign.
“It continues with the steps we know that stop the spread like expanded masking, testing, and social distancing. It’s a plan where the federal government works with states, cities, Tribal communities, and private industry to increase supply and administer testing and the vaccines that will help reopen schools and businesses safely,” Biden said. “Equity will also be central to our strategy so that the communities and people being disproportionately infected and killed by the pandemic receive the care they need and deserve.”
The president further noted that defeating the pandemic would take Congress providing the necessary funding, and families and neighbors continuing to look out for one another.
He said the country would need health care providers, businesses, civic, religious and civil rights organizations, and unions all rallying together in common purpose and with urgency, purpose, and resolve.
“We will need to reassert America’s leadership in the world in the fight against this and future public health threats,” Biden asserted.
Hildreth noted that the virus has had the largest impact on communities of color, among Black and brown Americans with underlying health conditions.
“Without our immediate attention and a national, organized effort to fight this virus, we will be dealing with its impact for years to come,” he said. “As the president of a historically Black medical school that was founded to eradicate health disparities between majority and minority communities, this work is a focus for me and my institution. I am committed to working with our national leadership to develop cohesive plans that will address these silent killers — illnesses like COVID-19 that impact our most vulnerable populations at alarming rates.
“We must address the pandemic together. I am confident that President Biden’s heightened focus on the pandemic will accelerate testing, treatment and vaccinations nationwide — proven strategies that will work to mitigate the virus and protect our people,” Hildreth said. “I look forward to working with my esteemed colleagues on the task force to restore health, well-being and stability to all of America.”