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A Crucial COVID Conversation with Brilliant Black Women
A Crucial COVID Conversation with Brilliant Black Women

A Crucial COVID Conversation with Brilliant Black Women

Join COSI as we host an important discussion focused on all things COVID-19 and vaccines. In honor of Black History Month, we will hear from four brilliant Black women from right here in Columbus, including esteemed health expert Dr. Mysheika Roberts, Columbus Public Health Commissioner, and the brilliant and accessible Dr. Karin Wurapa, who specializes in preventative medicine.

Moderated by Ms. Tracy Maxwell Heard, Executive Director for MACC, this impactful conversation will answer frequently asked questions centered around the pandemic. Have you wondered things like – what is in the vaccine? What should I expect when I get my vaccination? How do they know what dosage is right for me? What about my blood type? Can they force me to get the vaccine? Join us as we answer these questions, address the health disparities that disproportionately affect African American communities, discuss how we can be the best advocates for our health, and much more!


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About our Panelists:

Dr. Mysheika Roberts
Dr. Mysheika Roberts is the Health Commissioner for Columbus Public Health. Dr. Roberts leads the organization and a team of nearly 500 public health professionals who are focused on neighborhood-based approaches that address the social determinants of health from safe, affordable housing and education to jobs and violent crime in order to decrease the health disparities that exist. Dr. Roberts has a prolific 18-year public health background at the local, state, and national levels.



Dr. Karin Wurapa
Dr. Karin Wurapa, is a passionate advocate for wellness. Dr. Wurapa is a Family, Lifestyle, and Preventive Medicine Physician who also specializes in Public Health Policy. She recently completed a special assignment as a consultant to the Medical Director and COVID Response Team at the Ohio Department of Health. Her latest advocacy work seeks to honor and protect the elderly and seniors living in Assisted Living and Memory Care communities.



Event Moderator: Ms. Tracy Maxwell Heard
Ms. Maxwell Heard is the Executive Director of Multiethnic Advocates for Cultural Competence (MACC, Inc.). MACC’s mission is to implement cultural competence concepts and tools into policies and programs across systems, organizations and businesses. She is the former Minority Leader in the Ohio House of Representatives, having given eight years of legislative service. Ms. Heard is also the recipient of an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters for her collective body of work in the Ohio legislature, bestowed by Wilberforce University.



Special introductory remarks provided by: Demetries Neely, JD.
Executive Director of The King Arts Complex. Ms. Neely oversees all operations of The King Arts Complex. Under Neely’s leadership, the organization’s reputation and brand have been strengthened with recognition for quality educational programming. Prior to joining the Complex, Ms. Neely owned her own law firm for four years. Before entering private law practice, she built a 22-year career at Nationwide Insurance, where she was an executive for 11 years.



At COSI, we are always looking for ways to highlight the amazing contributions to science, technology, engineering and math made by underrepresented groups such as women and persons of color. Join us in celebrating Black History Month by learning more about these notable Black scientists and engineers below.

Lisa White

Lisa White, PhD - Micropaleontologist
Dr. Lisa White is a micropaleontologist (a scientist who studies fossils at a microscopic level). She is active in efforts to increase diversity in the geosciences through various outreach programs, and was the inaugural recipient of the Geological Society of America Bromery Award, an honor bestowed upon a geoscientist who has been instrumental in opening the geoscience field to other minorities.



David Wilcots

David Wilcots, PhD - Paleontologist & Geologist
Wilcots is the senior geologist and manager of environmental projects for a company called Sci-tek in Philadelphia. His team includes civil and geotechnical engineers, environmental scientists, data analysts and software programmers. They examine landscapes; assess environments; and design, plan and document environmental matters. Wilcots spent four days at a dinosaur excavation site in northeastern Montana with paleontologist Gregory Wilson of the Burke Museum working on what is known as the Tufts-Love Tyrannosaurus rex, which according to the museum is the 15th T. rex specimen that includes a skull.



Quinn Capers

Quinn Capers, MD - Interventional Cardiologist, OSU Wexner medical Center
As an interventional cardiologist, Dr. Capers is trained to treat the entire spectrum of heart disorders. He performs procedures to open blocked arteries in the heart. These often involve advancing a catheter (tube) from the wrist up to the heart and using balloons, stents and other devices to open up the arteries. Dr. Capers was rated in the top 10 percent of physicians in the nation for patient satisfaction for 5 years in a row.



Charles Rotimi

Charles Rotimi, Ph - Researcher
Dr. Rotimi is the Director of the Trans-National Institutes of Health center for research in genomics and global health. He works to ensure that population genetics include genomes from African populations and founded the African Society of Human Genetics in 2003. Through his research, he found that hypertension and diabetes rates are significantly higher in African-American populations in Chicago than they are in rural Africa. He attributed this to lifestyle factors, including weight, salt consumption and levels of physical activity.



Alexa Canady

Alexa Canady, MD - Neurosurgeon
In 1981, Dr. Canady became the first female African American neurosurgeon in the United States. In 1984, Canady was certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery, another first for a female African American. Three years later, she became director of neurosurgery at the Children's Hospital. Under her guidance, the department was soon viewed as one of the best in the country. Canady specialized as a pediatric neurosurgeon and served as chief of neurosurgery at the Children's Hospital in Michigan from 1987 to 2001.



Joanne E. Berger-Sweeney

Joanne E. Berger-Sweeney, PhD - Neuroscientist and President of Trinity College
Dr. Berger-Sweeny is a neuroscientist, She is the first African-American and the first woman to serve in the position as President of Trinity College. While working on her Ph.D. in neurotoxicology from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Berger-Sweeney did the proof of concept work on Razadyne, which went on to be the second-most-used Alzheimer’s drug in the world. She completed her postdoctoral training at the National Institute of Health in Paris, France.



Darrell M. Gray

Darrell M. Gray, II, MD, MPH, FACG - Medical Director, Endoscopy and Gastroenterology Services, Ohio State East Hospital | Deputy Director, Center for Cancer Health Equity, OSUCCC-James
Dr. Gray is an associate professor of medicine at The Ohio State University, where he serves as Medical Director of Endoscopy and Gastroenterology Services. In his role, he leads the Provider and Community Engagement (PACE) Program for Health Equity in Colorectal Cancer Prevention, a nationally recognized initiative aimed at improving colorectal cancer screening rates. He also directs initiatives to enrich the pipeline of diverse health professionals and support the advancement of underrepresented minorities in the field of gastroenterology.



Dr Dale Okorodudu

Dr. Dale Okorodudu, MD, - Pulmonary & Critical Care Physician
In addition to being a practicing Pulmonary & Critical Care Physician, Dr. Dale, as his patients call him, is an award-winning physician, speaker, and best-selling author. He is best known as the founder of Diverse Medicine Inc. – an initiative to increase ethnic and socioeconomic diversity in the medical workforce via the implementation of community programs that expose underrepresented students to the field of medicine.



Maria Miriti

Maria Miriti, PhD - Ecologist & Professor at The Ohio State University
Dr. Miriti studies how plant communities work, specifically invasive plants. Plants can’t move, which means that the resources they need (nutrients, light and water) have to travel to where plants are or else plants won’t survive. Dr. Miriti conducts experiments and uses computer simulations to try to figure out how to manage plants that are useful, such as agricultural crops; plants that can be harmful, such as weeds; or plants that live in their natural habitat.



Robert Bullard

Robert Bullard, PhD - Environmentalist
Dr. Robert Bullard is often referred to as the “father of the environmental justice movement.” He has been one of the leading voices on the issue for decades. In 2008, he was named one of Newsweek’s 13 “Environmental Leaders of the Century”. Dr Bullard has authored numerous books on the prominence of waste facilities in predominately African-American areas all over the nation, as well as others that address urban land use, industrial facility siting, housing, transportation, climate justice, emergency response, smart growth, and equity.



Dianne Glave

Dianne Glave, PhD - Agriculturalist
Dr. Glave is a historian and professor whose specialty is African American Environmentalism. Her love of nature has translated professionally and vocationally and she writes and speaks extensively on the topic. She is currently serving as the associate pastor at Ingomar Church in Pittsburgh, where part of her ministry is advocacy for impoverished and marginalized people affected by environmental disparity including access to recreational spaces and healthcare. She is the author of “Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage.”



Jessica Watkins

Jessica Watkins, PhD - NASA Astronaut Candidate
Dr. Watkins is a NASA astronaut, geologist, aquanaut and former international rugby player. At just 32, she is one of the 22 astronauts chosen for the Artemis mission. As a collaborator on the Mars Science Laboratory Science Team, she participated in daily planning of the Mars rover activities and uses its image data combined with orbital data to investigate the stratigraphy, geology, and geomorphology of Mars.



Jessica Watkins

Mary J. Lobo, MS - Director of the Office of Technology Incubation and Innovation at NASA
Mary Lobo is the director of the Technology Incubation and Innovation Office at NASA. She is responsible for aligning the center’s early-stage technology investment opportunities with its long-term technology goals, strategic partnering for economic development in the region, and the transfer of Glenn-developed technologies to private industry.



Ronald McNair

Ronald McNair, PhD - Former NASA Astronaut
Ronald Erwin McNair was an American NASA astronaut and physicist. He died during the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger on mission STS-51-L, in which he was serving as one of three mission specialists in a crew of seven. At the age of 26, he graduated with honors and earned his Ph.D. degree in LASER Physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.



Stephanie Wilson

Stephanie Wilson, MS- NASA Engineer and Astronaut
Stephanie Wilson flew to space onboard three Space Shuttle missions, and is the second African American woman to go into space, after Mae Jemison. Her 42 days in space are the most of any African American astronaut, male or female. Stephanie was the voice of mission control for the recent all-female space walk. As a member of the Astronaut Office, she is currently the Mission Support Crew Branch Chief. You can follow her on twitter at: @Astro_Stephanie



Robert Hamilton

Robert Hamilton, PhD - Ecology Researcher & Professor at Kent State University
As a researcher, Dr. Hamilton studies insects that live in the water, chemicals in the water, and measure water quality. He performs research in ponds, streams, lakes, rivers, and wetlands. As a professor, he also educates students about living organisms and where and how they live. Dr. Hamilton’s research is important because by studying these waters, we can better monitor pollution and its effects on the environment. We see the results of human activities and can make changes that benefit the environment.



Ashanti Johnson

Ashanti Johnson, PhD- Geochemist and Chemical Oceonographer
Dr. Johnson is one of the first female African American chemical oceanographers and the first African American to earn a doctoral degree in oceanography from Texas A&M University. Johnson has also made several notable contributions to STEM education, which earned her the 2010 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering.



Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, PhD - Marine Biologist
Dr. Johnson is a marine biologist, policy expert, and conservation strategist. Dr. Johnson is founder and CEO of Collectiv, a consulting firm for conservation solutions grounded in social justice. Ayana earned a BA from Harvard University in Environmental Science and Public Policy, and a Ph.D. from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in marine biology, with a dissertation on the ecology and socio-economics of sustainably managing coral reefs.



Dawn Wright

Dawn Wright, PhD - Geographer & Oceanographer
Dr. Wright is an American geographer and oceanographer. She is a leading authority in the application of geographic information system technology to the field of ocean and coastal science, and played a key role in creating the first GIS data model for the oceans. Wright was the first African-American female to dive to the ocean floor in the deep submersible.



Guion 'Guy' Bluford

Guion "Guy" Bluford, PhD - Aerospace Engineer, Fighter pilot, Former NASA Astronaut
Dr. Bluford Jr. is an American aerospace engineer, retired U.S. Air Force officer and fighter pilot, and former NASA astronaut, who is the first African American and the second person of African descent to go to space. After completing a total of four missions, Bluford has logged over 688 hours in space.