Dr. Fauci appointed Kizzmekia Shanta Corbett, PH.D to lead a team studying the corona virus. At the tender age of 34, she was propelled into the spotlight. Given social media chatter some from the African American community speculated on whether she would marry a white man. Her old twitter feed was analyzed and criticize by right wing conservatives including those on FOX News TV. All this happening at the height of round one of COVID-19, a virus that has been thrust into our American consciousness from January 2020 until now May 21st infecting 1,581903 or one third of cases globally at 4,941,338 with 325,577 deaths while the USA has 93,806 (according to AI/Watson/IBM). This pandemic is the worst in our lifetime with the last being over 100 years ago in 1918. Those who have kept up with our governments slow response to the coronavirus could appreciate the relationship between scientist advising and the behavior of the president of not trusting advice based on facts. In certain ways, it is almost mystical for the average citizen to understand how predictions of a coming pandemic have been warned since the administration of George H.W. Bush, who began putting the infrastructure in place. Other administrations have built on that foundation equipping our government’s ability to respond. Bill Gates, Microsoft founder, learned the importance of a healthy society through his foundation’s global work, even voiced his concern for our readiness. In the past, US citizens have not had to suffer other global pandemics due to government’s capacity to minimized the loss of life stateside while working on solutions with world leaders.  This pandemic unfortunately comes as a perfect storm. The combination of dismantling our agency response mechanisms at the highest levels of government, a preoccupied president who doesn’t trust scientists, ignored many warnings, in denial, and China’s lack of transparency and access during the initial outbreak in Wuhan. This virus presence was known in January without the closing of our borders nor screening allowing 300 or more people traveling from virus hotspots in China and eventually Europe, which set the USA on a track to experience the worst pandemic of this century. Our dependence on presidential leadership has resulted in an overwhelmed hospital systems, glaring examples of health disparities of African Americans, economic collapse after shutting down businesses to prevent the virus spread thrusting people into unemployment over 38 million to date. This also unveiled additional disparities of the wealth divide. For the first time in modern history we starkly see the frailties of our systems once based a privatized healthcare system, policies and practices that historically were sustainable only separate and divide our citizens. 

COVID-19 teaches many Americans that just through position, wealth or skin color, it cannot be avoided. Labels like ‘essential workers’ end up meaning people on the front lines (like troops). The news highlighted doctors and nurses as the obvious healthcare professionals, who are heroic. More and more spotlights started showing unsuspecting heroes, that makes our country work: grocery, hardware, pharmaceutical store clerks, EMT, hospital maintenance staff, meat and poultry assembly line workers, and delivery personnel to name a few. We learned that one sick person can infect a whole city! New Rochelle, NY had to be quarantined as an example of how infectious the virus could be. 

Dr. Fauci is a physician and immunologist, who has advised presidents since being appointed in 1984 as the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The NIH or National Institute of Health established from a one room late in 1887 became one of the world’s foremost medical research centers. NIAID is one of its Institutes. At the top of their website you will see COVID-19 red banner directing citizen to the CDC or Center for Disease Control for public health information. (https://www.coronavirus.gov) and for the latest research from NIH (https://www.nih.gov/conronavirus). 

This is the world that Kizzmekia Shanta Corbett, PH.D has built her career within and is now assigned as head of a research team on the coronavirus. Certainly one of the pinnacles in her young career, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett has been catapulted into the center of media attention. How did she get to this amazing and high profile position? Her development trajectory tells the story.

  1. Her fourth grade Oak Lane elementary school teacher, Myrtis Bransher recognized talent in her behavior encouraged advance classes. She was noted for dotting her ‘i’s’ and crossing her ’t’s’.
  2. Under ProjectSEED in high school ‘Kizzy’ for Kizzmekia had decided to pursue a scientific career and spent her summer holiday working at UNC’s Lenan Labs with organic chemist James Morkin (2004).
  3. As summer intern in 2005 she worked in Gloria Viboud’s lab at SUNY StonyBrook, where she studied ‘Yersinia pseudotuberculosis’ pathogenesis.  
  4. She attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2006 and in 2007 and worked as a lab tech in Susan Dorsey’s lab in the University of Maryland School of Nursing. 
  5. Ms Corbett undergraduate degree was completed in 2009 where she became a biological sciences trainer at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) alongside Dr. Barney Graham (mentor). It was here she worked on pathogenesis of ‘respiratory syncytial virus and innovative vaccine platform advancement.
  6. In pursuit of her PH.D from 2009 to 2014 Kizzmekia Corbett ‘studied human antibody responses to dengue virus in Sri Lankan children under the supervision of Aravinda de Silva’ at UNC Chapel Hill, NC. She ‘studied how people produce antibodies from dengue fever’, and ‘how genetics of the dengue fever impacted severity of disease’. Part of her dissertation was done as a visiting scholar at Genaetech Research Institute in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 2014. 
  7. Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, began work at the NIH becoming a research fellow working ‘as a viral immunologist. ‘She specifically focused on the development of novel vaccines for coronaviridae, ’Her early research involved SARS and MERS where she identified a simple way to make ‘spike proteins to stabilize thus allowing a conformed use for immunogenic and manufacturable. This was done in conjunction with Scripps Research Institute and Dartmouth College.
  8. Dr. Corbett began work on a vaccine to protect people from coronavirus disease at the onset of the COVID-19. Learn more…

Dr. Kizzmekia Shanta Corbett is an immunologist and works at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Her nationality is American. She was born in Hurdle Mills, North Carolina and grew up in Hillsborough. The mindset that is required to do research, along with necessary development, mentoring, coaching and education has helped Dr. Corbett to reach prominent levels of recognition. Then the call comes from all the hard work, a world renowned leadership person at the top of her institute hand picked Dr. Corbett to lead a high profile project addressing a vaccine for the deadliest pandemic of our generation. This makes you very unique. A protagonist, in the forefront, with important work tackling our most immediate need, a vaccine. She is a national asset, even the right wingers acknowledges this. She deserves admiration, respect and recognition. Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett has become a consummate professional for her time. Thank you, we look forward to your success! 

Art and Article by Lillian L. Thompson Creative at Lillianonline.us

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