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Alumni in the coronavirus conversation

As covid-19 spread this spring, the media turned to MIT-educated experts to make sense of the pandemic.
June 26, 2020

The virus

“I am very wary of simplistic projections about the ongoing outbreak based solely off of its current growth patterns"

—Maimuna Majumder, SM ’15, PhD ’18, faculty, Boston Children’s Hospital Computational Health Informatics Program, and research associate, Harvard Medical School (ABC News, March 16) 

“Closing schools, bars, and movie theaters are good measures, but not enough. Our relaxed approach to social distancing is insufficient to stop the exponential growth of covid-19.”

—Yaneer Bar-Yam ’78, PhD ’84, founding president, New England Complex Systems Institute (USA Today, March 21)

“Not all antibodies are created equal. We need to know what drives protective responses to the virus to help spur vaccine development.”

—Albert Ko ’81, professor of epidemiology, Yale School of Public Health (New Haven Register, April 14)

“We’ve got up to 14,000 nursing students due to graduate this spring, and that’s a lot of nurses that we really need right now.”

—Joanne Spetz ’90, professor, Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, University of California, San Francisco (KQED, March 23)

“The main thing we’ve learned is about how easily the virus is transmitted from person to person … This is clearly what makes this virus so much more dangerous than other viruses we’ve seen.”

—Stanley Perlman, PhD ’72, professor of microbiology and immunology and professor of pediatrics, University of Iowa (Iowa Public Radio, April 20)

“It’s not about how many more contact tracers do we need. It’s more about do we have the framework in place, not just in public health, but throughout society to be able to reopen.” 

—Sarah Park ’91, state epidemiologist, Hawaii Department of Health (Honolulu Civil Beat, May 8)


The fallout

“A virus knows no borders … and here a concerning change is heightened mistrust among countries.”

—Kathleen Hicks, PhD ’10, senior vice president and director, International Security Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies (Politico, March 7)

“Covid-19 is both a current emergency and a phenomenon that will have long-term effects on vulnerable populations and the viability of some of the nonprofits that serve them.”

—Barbara Fields, MCP ’85, president and CEO, Greater Worcester Community Foundation (Worcester Telegram and Gazette, March 18)

“Whereas 10 days ago there was some legitimate uncertainty about whether the global economy was in the process of going into recession—10 days later, there’s no question that it is.” 

—David Wilcox, PhD ’87, senior fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics (CNN, March 16)

“It’s not the time to get boring, even in your planning. We have to be planning for exciting, important art, more than ever.” 

—Michael Kaiser, SM ’77,  chairman, DeVos Institute of Arts Management, University of Maryland (Washington Post, March 19)

“This pandemic has highlighted some of the many health-care disparities affecting communities of color, and reminds me that I must continue to use my voice as a physician to speak out against inequity.”

—Kianna Jackson ’16, medical resident, Vanderbilt University (Forbes, May 5)

“I think there’s a lot of things that will come out of this.
One is it will be a reckoning of the importance of evidence
to guide policy.”

—Anupam Jena ’00, associate professor of health care policy, Harvard Medical School; associate professor of medicine and assistant physician, Massachusetts General Hospital (NPR, April 10)

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