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COVID-19 and Vulnerable Communities with Mercedes Carnethon, PhD

Mercedes Carnethon, PhD, a Northwestern Medicine epidemiologist and population science expert, talks about how COVID-19 is affecting Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other people of color the most and what can be done to help these vulnerable communities as the pandemic continues and vaccine rollout lags behind.


"We see the highest rates of vaccine hesitancy in the communities who are hardest hit by COVID-19. It really breaks my heart, frankly, because we're seeing Black communities far less likely to be willing to accept a vaccine."

—  Mercedes Carnethon, PhD

  • Vice Chair, Department of Preventive Medicine
  • Mary Harris Thompson Professor
  • Professor of Preventive Medicine in the Division of Epidemiology
  • Professor of Medicine in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care
  • Member of Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute

Episode Notes

In this episode, Mercedes Carnethon, PhD, discusses the COVID-19 pandemic and how she and her colleagues have been promoting measures that could protect older adults and nonwhite, ethnic minorities who are at the highest-risk of deadly outcomes if they contract the disease. Since her last time on the podcast, Carnethon's research focus on health disparities and cardiovascular diseases has broadened to address lung diseases.

She recalls her role as a witness for a Senate Special Committee on Aging over the summer of 2020, when she shared her observations and recommendations on how to protect vulnerable populations during the pandemic

Carnethon also addresses vaccine hesitancy in these communities and the need to better communicate with them. Based on data from the annual influenza vaccine distribution, nonwhite and ethnic minorities are less likely to get vaccinated than non-Hispanic whites. 

"(We need to) really listen to the reasons why people are expressing uncertainty about vaccination," she says. "Because, quite often, we take this position coming out of academia of telling people what they should do rather than asking them what their concerns are, so that we can address those more specifically and directly."

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Recorded on Jan 28, 2020.

Continuing Medical Education Credit

Physicians who listen to this podcast may claim continuing medical education credit after listening to an episode of this program.

Target Audience

Academic/Research, Multiple specialties

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this activity, participants will be able to:

  1. Identify the research interests and initiatives of Feinberg faculty.
  2. Discuss new updates in clinical and translational research.
Accreditation Statement

The Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

Credit Designation Statement

The Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine designates this Enduring Material for a maximum of 0.5 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Disclosure Statement

Mercedes Carnethon, MD, has nothing to disclose. Course director, Robert Rosa, MD, has nothing to disclose. Planning committee member, Erin Spain, has nothing to disclose. Feinberg School of Medicine's CME Leadership and Staff have nothing to disclose: Clara J. Schroedl, MD, Medical Director of CME, Sheryl Corey, Manager of CME, Jennifer Banys, Senior Program Administrator, Allison McCollum, Senior Program Coordinator, Katie Daley, Senior Program Coordinator, and Rhea Alexis Banks, Administrative Assistant 2.

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