The Impact of COVID-19 in the Context of Society and Biology

Join the Genomics in the Public Square University Seminar, National Human Genome Research Institute, and National Institutes of Health for a panel discussion on the impact of COVID-19 in the context of society and biology. The seminar is co-convened by Sonia M. Suter, The Kahan Family Research Professor of Law; Founding Director, Health Law Initiative. 

The panel will discuss:

  • What makes COVID-19 more dangerous for some individuals and communities than others?
  • What does it mean when viruses mutate?
  • What are some of the reasons we see population differences in illness?
  • What social and biological factors are important?
  • What is it like participating in a vaccine trial?
  • What is the role of history in research participation?







Dr. Charles Rotimi, a genetic epidemiologist, is an NIH Distinguished Investigator and the Director of the Trans-NIH Center for Research on Genomics and Global Health. He is a leader in exploring the implications of the increased genetic diversity in African ancestry populations for disease gene mapping. Dr. Rotimi is especially proud of his efforts at globalizing genomics. His engagement of African communities for the International HapMap and 1000 Genomes projects has had a transformative impact. Dr. Rotimi was the founding president of the now thriving African Society of Human Genetics, and spearheaded the formation of the H3Africa Initiative with over 176 million US dollars funding from NIH and Wellcome Trust. Dr. Rotimi was recognized as an “African Innovator” by Quartz Africa and elected to the USA National Academy of Medicine and African Academy of Sciences. He is 2020 president-elect for the American Society of Human Genetics. He is an internationally recognized scholar with research accomplishments profiled in New-England-Journal of Medicine, Science, Nature, Lancet, Newsweek, New York Times, and BBC.






Dr. Christian Happi is the Director of the World Bank-funded African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Disease (ACEGID), Professor of Molecular Biology and Genomics, and the former Dean of the College of Postgraduate Studies at Redeemer’s University, Nigeria. He completed a PhD at the University of Ibadan, and a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University, School of Public Health. He received the Merle A. Sande Health Leadership Award in 2011; the 2016 Award of Excellence in Research, by the Committee of Vice- Chancellors of Nigerian Universities; and the 2019 Human Genome Organization (HUGO) Africa Prize for his seminal work on infectious diseases genomics in Africa, including Ebola and Lassa fever.





Dr. Dayna Bowen Matthew is Dean and Harold H. Greene Professor of Law at the George Washington University Law School. A leader in public health and civil rights law, she previously served as a professor at the University of Virginia Law School, where she co-founded and directed The UVA Equity Center. Dean Matthew also served as professor and vice dean at the University of Colorado Law School. She was Special Council to the Office of Civil Rights at the EPA and worked on US Senator Debbie Stabenow’s health policy team. Dean Matthew is author of Just Medicine: A Cure for Racial Inequality in American Health Care.





Dr. Chris T. Pernell is a dynamic physician leader and social change agent. In her public health practice, she concentrates on health justice, community-based advocacy, and population-wide health promotion and disease prevention. Recently, she joined University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey as the first-ever Chief Strategic Integration and Health Equity Officer. In her role she oversees a portfolio that includes Population Health, Strategic Planning, Community Affairs, and the Human Experience. Dr. Pernell graduated from Princeton University before attending Duke University School of Medicine. She received a Master of Public Health from the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and completed the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health General Preventive Medicine Residency. Dr. Pernell is a fellow of the American College of Preventive Medicine and holds an appointment as a Clinical Assistant Professor at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.