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SLU School of Medicine Continues the Fight Against COVID-19 Misinformation

by Bridjes O'Neil on 01/25/2022
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Bridjes O'Neil
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01/25/2022

Saint Louis University’s School of Medicine remains vigilant in its fight against rampant, pandemic-related misinformation and continues to host a series of community events to quell fears. 

The SOM’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion recently hosted, “Can We Trust the Science? A Candid Roundtable Discussion on COVID-19 and Vaccinations” at Fresh Anointing Apostolic Church in Old North St. Louis. 

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The School of Medicine's Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion recently hosted, “Can We Trust the Science? A Candid Roundtable Discussion on COVID-19 and Vaccinations” at Fresh Anointing Apostolic Church in Old North St. Louis. Panelists included (from left): Denise Hooks-Anderson, M.D., Sharon Frey, M.D., and Jo-Ann Jose, M.D. Submitted photo.

Panelists included Sharon Frey, M.D., clinical director of SLU’s Center for Vaccine Development, Denise Hooks-Anderson, M.D., interim assistant dean of diversity, equity and inclusion and associate professor in family and community medicine, and Jo-Ann Jose, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Allergy and Immunology.

Moderator Daniel Blash, Ph.D., vice dean of diversity, equity and inclusion​ and chief diversity officer, said the office has hosted a dozen virtual community events including two in Spanish during the pandemic. The Jan. 9 event at Fresh Anointing, where Blash serves as pastor, was the first held in person with roughly 80 people in attendance.

“A live event puts you on the frontline,” Blash said. “We put the people and the doctors in the same room and that was a powerful difference in how receptive people were to what was being said. Our panelists gave stellar and heartfelt replies to very hard questions.”

As the omicron wave surges and threatens to overwhelm health care systems, Blash said communal concerns have evolved since the outset of the pandemic. 

“Early on we had questions about how the vaccines were made which have faded away,” Blash said. “We also had questions about safety which remain but have changed like potential side effects for pregnant women and those with autoimmune diseases.”

Jose also noted more concern around vaccine efficacy due to increased incidents of breakthrough infections, and whether there is a point in getting vaccinated or boosted. 

“Definitely! Vaccines provide excellent protection against severe illness and death even as breakthrough infection becomes more common with certain variants,” Jose said. “I think people are concerned about what the future looks like as well: How many boosters will I need? When will this be over? Why are we still in a place where the virus is determining how I live my life?”

Jose said we may be collectively exhausted by the virus, but it is not done with us yet. She urges the continuation of preventative and mitigation measures for the sake of public health.

“People cannot control the pandemic; however, they can control their response to it.” 

Jo-Ann Jose, M.D.
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SLU first-year medical students at the community event. Pictured (from left): Kaylah Pinkney, Daniel Blash, Ph.D., Caroline Wright, Aaliyah Sevier,  Jo-Ann Jose, M.D., and Sharon Frey, M.D. Submitted photo.

Esmeralda Aharon, program director for staff and community engagement, organized the community event. It featured breakfast and health screenings conducted by first-year medical school students and a graduate school resident.

Saint Louis University School of Medicine

Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: infectious disease, liver disease, cancer, heart/lung disease, and aging and brain disorders.