May 4, 2020

On April 30, Dr. Stephen Thomas hosted a community conversation on Facebook Live to discuss racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in the COVID-19 pandemic, and what action is needed to save the lives of Marylanders. 

"The Color of COVID-19 Maryland: Addressing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in a Global Pandemic" webinar included a panel of Maryland elected officials, public health experts and people impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Tonight is going to be about solutions," Thomas said. "But we also have to acknowledge the problem."

Thomas showed viewers data that highlights our nation's racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities regarding COVID-19. 

"Health disparities are not simply a difference," Family Science Professor Sandra Quinn, one of the speakers on the webinar, told viewers. "They are caused by underlying social determinants of health: racism, poverty, marginilization, immigration status. They are caused by a number of factors that put people at a distinct disadvantage."

Maryland State Senator Clarence K. Lam says that oftentimes, policy makers and members of the public look at things in silos. 

"We need to reinvest in education, transportation, the environment-- because they all effect our health," Lam said. We as a community need to address all these issues together. All of these are a complex interplay in the social determinants."

Watch a recording of the Facebook Live event below. 



Learn more about the host, moderator and speakers:  


Stephen B. Thomas
Professor Health Policy and Management
Director Maryland Center for Health Equity
University of Maryland School of Public Health

One of the nation's leading scholars in the effort to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities, Dr. Stephen B. Thomas has applied his expertise to address a variety of conditions from which minorities generally face far poorer outcomes, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and HIV/AIDS. He is the Principal Investigator (with Dr. Sandra C. Quinn) on the Center of Excellence in Race, Ethnicity and Health Disparities Research, funded by the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD).

Dr. Thomas has received numerous awards for his professional accomplishments, and over the years, his work has become recognized as one of the scholarly contributions leading to the 1997 Presidential Apology to Survivors of the Syphilis Study Done at Tuskegee. His current research focuses on the translation of evidence-based science on chronic disease into community-based interventions designed to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health and health care. More specifically, he has focused on understanding how social context shapes attitudes and behaviors of underserved, poorly served, and never-served segments of our society toward participation in health promotion and disease prevention activities.


Omar Neal
Former Mayor Tuskegee, Alabama
Internet Talk Show Host of You Got the Power

Omar Neal served as the Mayor of the historic City of Tuskegee, Alabama from 2008 – 2012. Under his leadership, a long-term deficit city budget was brought to fiscal stability, new business and economic growth increased and International relations with West African countries were forged with governmental, municipal, educational, cultural and the private sector to include Non-governmental organizations. Neal also served as Macon County District III Commissioner from 1996-2000 where he was a major influence in bringing the county government from deficit spending to having a reserve at the end of his term. 

Neal founded, "You Got the Power," Enterprises Inc. in 1991. “You Got the Power” is a communications company that specializes in talk radio, motivational workshops, media consulting, advertising and motivational speaking. Neal is also the founder and president of the International Municipal Collaboration, Inc. and serves as vice-chair to the late Chairman Dr. Maya Angelou of the Community Healing Network (CHN) advisory board. 

He attended Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. After completing his studies at Tuskegee, Neal attended the Montgomery Police Academy. Neal also graduated from Troy University with a Master’s in Public Management. He completed the inaugural Leadership Macon County course and the Next Level Leadership Program where he became a Certified Trainer. He completed the Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government, Senior Executive State and Local Government Education program in July of 2009 and the Delta Leadership Institute in June of 2010. 


Delegate Gabriel Acevero
Democrat, District 39, Montgomery County

Delegate Acevaro was first elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 2018 and has been a member of the House of Delegates since January 9, 2019. He currently serves on the Appropriations Committee, Public Safety and Administration Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee, Oversight Committee on Pensions of the Appropriations Committee, Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland and serves as treasurer for the Maryland Legislative Latino Caucus. Delegate Acevaro was named one of the 100 Emerging Leaders to Watch by the National Black Justice Coalition in 2015.

Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Delegate Acevaro obtained an associate's degree in international relations from Montgomery College and a bachelor’s in political science and public policy from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Additionally, he serves as a field representative for the Municipal and County Government Employees Organization, as a fellow for the Maryland New Leaders Council and as a business development manager for Commercial Real Estate in Baltimore.


Delegate Joseline Peña-Melnyk
Maryland State Delegate (District 21)

Delegate Peña-Melnyk has served in the Maryland House of Delegates since 2007. She is the Vice-Chair of the Health and Government Operations Committee, a leadership role following the traditions of that House. She is also the Vice-Chair of the Maryland Legislative Latino Caucus, the Chair of the Public Health and Minority Health Disparities Subcommittee of the Health and Government Operations Committee. She is a member of the Government Operations and Health Facilities Subcommittee.

As a state legislator, she has focused on protecting consumers, reforming the criminal justice system, helping working families make ends meet, and championing Medicaid expansion to help Marylanders afford health insurance. Currently, Delegate Peña-Melnyk is a member of the Maryland State Advisory Committee appointed by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. She is also the East Region Chair of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators.


Deidra C. Crews, MD, ScM, FASN, FACP
Associate Professor of Medicine
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Dr. Crews is a board-certified nephrologist, and Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Nephrology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She holds appointments with the School of Nursing, the Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research, the Center on Aging and Health, and the Center for Health Equity, where she is Associate Director for Research Development. Her research focuses on addressing disparities in the care and outcomes of kidney disease and hypertension.

An elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, Dr. Crews has received numerous awards for her research contributions, including the 2018 Johns Hopkins University President’s Frontier Award--a $250,000 award granted to a single faculty scholar on the cusp of transforming their field. She is a National Academy of Medicine (NAM) Emerging Leader Scholar and was the inaugural Gilbert S. Omenn Anniversary Fellow of the NAM. In 2019, Dr. Crews received the W. Lester Henry Award for Diversity and Access to Care from the American College of Physicians and the Distinguished Leader Award from the American Society of Nephrology. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and her medical degree from Saint Louis University. Dr. Crews completed internal medicine residency, nephrology fellowship and a master’s in clinical epidemiology degree at Johns Hopkins.


Noel Brathwaite, PhD, MSPH
Director, Maryland Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities

Dr. Noel Brathwaite is an international public health expert.  He is currently the Director Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities (MHHD), Maryland Department of Health (MDH). Some of his past experiences include leadership positions with Florida Department of Health; the University of Miami School of Medicine, Cancer center; Morehouse School of Medicine International and Public Health Program; and as Director of Research in Trinidad.  His research interests include the impact of geography and lifestyle on chronic disease; health and premature mortality in small island developing states; and health system resiliency.  He has published a number of health-related articles in peer review journals. He is a graduate of Loma Linda University; earned a Doctorate from the University of Maryland; and pursued Postdoctoral studies at Johns Hopkins University and also at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, (CAMH) affiliated with the University of Toronto, Canada. 



Senator Clarence K. Lam
Democrat, District 12, Baltimore County & Howard County

Senator Clarence K. Lam was fiirst elected to the Maryland Senate in 2018 and has been a member of the Senate since January 9, 2019. He currently serves on the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee, Health Subcommittee of the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee (Co-Chair, 2019), Environment Subcommittee of the Education (Chair), Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee, Executive Nominations Committee, Joint Committee on Fair Practices and State Personnel Oversight (2019 Senate Chair), Joint Audit and Evaluation Committee (2020 Senate Chair), Joint Committee on Ending Homelessness, Maryland Legislative Asian-American & Pacific-Islander Caucus, Inc. (2019 1st Vice-Chair), Senate Select Committee No. 5, Howard County Delegation (2019 Chair).

Senator Clarence K. Lam received a bachelor’s with honors from Case Western Reserve University, an MD from the University of Maryland, School of Medicine and a master's of public health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.


Senator Charles E. Sydnor III
Democrat, District 44, Baltimore County

Senator Sydnor was sworn into the Maryland Senate on January 8, 2020, to represent District 44, which includes communities in both Baltimore City and Baltimore County, and serves on the Judicial Proceedings Committee.  Additionally, Senator Sydnor was appointed to Joint Committee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology, and Biotechnology, the Joint Committee on Ending Homelessness, and State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy.  

Senator Sydnor matriculated at and received his Juris Doctor and Masters of Policy Sciences from the University of Maryland School of Law and University of Maryland Baltimore County, respectively.  He also matriculated and received his Bachelor’s degree with honors from Johns Hopkins University and his A-course diploma from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.  Charles is a member of the American Bar Association, Maryland State Bar Association and Baltimore County Bar Association and admitted to practice before Maryland and District of Columbia courts and the United States Supreme Court.


Sandra C. Quinn
Professor and Chair, Family Science
Director of Maternal and Child Health PhD Program
Senior Associate Director of Maryland Center for Health Equity
University of Maryland School of Public Health

Dr. Quinn is Professor and Chair of the Department of Family Science and Senior Associate Director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity, School of Public Health at the University of Maryland. She is currently Principal Investigator (w. D. Broniatowski) on a National Institute of General Medical Sciences/NIH grant, Supplementing Survey- Based Analyses of Group Vaccination Narratives and Behaviors Using Social Media. This team has led the field in examining vaccine misinformation on social media platforms. She was Principal Investigator (with S. Thomas) on a National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities/NIH Center of Excellence in Race, Ethnicity and Health Disparities Research. Within the COE, she was the Principal Investigator on a
mixed-methods study, Uncovering and Addressing Cultural Beliefs behind Vaccine Racial Disparities, completed in late 2017. Within that study, her research team pioneered new measures to identify the impact of perceived racial fairness, racial consciousness, and discrimination, all in the context of health care, on vaccine uptake (Quinn et al, 2017). She was also the Principal Investigator on two FDA funded studies: 1) Public Attitudes Toward Medical Countermeasures and 2) Investigating Factors Associated with Participation of Racial & Ethnic Minority Populations in FDA Regulated Research. Dr. Quinn was also Principal Investigator (with Thomas) of a Grand Opportunity grant from the Office of the Director, NIH: “Bioethics Research Infrastructure Initiative: Building Trust between Minorities and Researchers”. As the Principal Investigator of a CDC funded study, Public Attitudes Toward H1N1 Influenza,
she led two national surveys during the H1N1 influenza pandemic, becoming the first to examine public attitudes toward emergency use authorizations for drugs and vaccines and the first to conduct an empirical test of disparities in risk, susceptibility and access to care that can exacerbate existing health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities in a pandemic (see Quinn et al, 2011; Kumar et al, 2012).

As Principal Investigator, she also conducted a CDC funded qualitative study of communication between postal workers and public health professionals during the 2001 anthrax attack. She is a member of a National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine committee on Evidence-Based Practices for Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response. Her research interests include vaccine acceptance in routine and emergency situations; social media and vaccine narratives; racial disparities in vaccine uptake; crisis and emergency risk communication with a specific focus on minority populations; and engagement of minority and marginalized communities in research.

Related People
Stephen B. Thomas, Sandra C. Quinn, Boris Lushniak