President-elect Joe Biden announced on his website the formation of the Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board, which will be co-chaired by Marcella Nunez-Smith ’96, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler, and former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. This task force will advise Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and other members of the transition team on developing a federal response to the pandemic when they take office in January.
Nunez-Smith, who was a special major in psychology and biological anthropology at Swarthmore and is a native of the U.S. Virgin Islands, is an associate professor of internal medicine, public health, and management at Yale University and the associate dean for health equity research at the Yale School of Medicine. Her work focuses on promoting health and health care equity for structurally marginalized populations, and some of her research interests include global health, social discrimination, and health care disparities.
“Our country is facing an unprecedented time with COVID-19 cases accelerating nationwide,” said Nunez-Smith in a recent interview. “Everyone is affected by this pandemic, yet the burden is disproportionate. We know communities of color are grieving at high rates and are facing substantial economic impact. The transition advisory board is setting a course for everyone in our country to experience recovery. I’m honored to help lead on that work and thank President-elect Joe Biden for the opportunity to serve.”
Nunez-Smith is one of two individuals connected to the COVID-19 advisory board with a degree from Swarthmore. Rebecca Katz '95, who was a political science and economics major at the College, will serve as an advisor to the board. Katz, a professor in the department of microbiology and immunology at the Georgetown Medical School, has expertise in pandemic planning. For more than a decade, she has worked to help design systems and implement policies to facilitate a coordinated response to potential microbial outbreaks and pandemics. From 2004 to 2019, Katz was a consultant to the Department of State, working on issues related to the Biological Weapons Convention, pandemic influenza and disease surveillance.