COVID-19, Equity & Anti-Racism

As part of our commitment to anti-racism and health equity, USF Health and collaborators across the University of South Florida have been on the frontlines to ensure that communities of color in the Tampa Bay region, often the most negatively impacted by the pandemic, are informed about the safety and science of the COVID-19 vaccine. Under the leadership of Dr. Charles Lockwood, senior vice president of USF Health, and Dr. Haywood Brown, vice president for institutional equity and associate dean of diversity in the  Morsani College of Medicine, researchers in USF Health have been working tirelessly to address our institutional and local needs related to COVID-19.

What is USF doing in the community?

Researchers in the USF community, across all colleges, have long prioritized examining health disparities and what are referred to as the social determinants of health. As it relates to COVID-19, the research and community work of Dr. Kevin Sneed, dean of the Taneja College of Pharmacy, and Dr. Angela Hill, associate dean of Clinical Affairs, stand out as exemplars for best practices.

Since May 2020, Dr. Kevin Sneed and Dr. Angela Hill have been actively organizing community outreach efforts to respond to the lack of information in communities of color about the safety of the vaccine. As part of the WE-CARE program, they have partnered with REACH UP, led by Dr. Estrellita Berry, to provide information sessions and organized meetings with coaches, pastors, all nine major Black sorority/fraternity members and Black congressional members, among other groups. In addition, they have provided data and community conversations targeting the Latino community, including interviews with Spanish-language newspapers such as La Gaceta.

Of their community conversations, Dr. Sneed notes, “the question and answer period is where the magic happens.” He explained that when individuals have their personal questions answered, this makes them more comfortable. These same individuals can become critical advocates in the community to encourage others to learn about and be receptive to the vaccine. Hiram Green, WE-CARE community engagement coordinator, was recognized on January 18, 2021, by the Tampa Organization of Black Affairs (TOBA) for his contributions to health equity in Black communities.

In spring 2021, the WE-CARE program will have COVID-19 educational sessions with the following organizations: National Council of Negro Women (Tampa branch); NAACP (Hillsborough County); Bank of America (national); Kappa Alpha Psi Tampa Alumni; Alpha Kappa Alpha Tampa Alumni; and The Links, Incorporated.

Beyond these training sessions, Dr. Sneed and Dr. Lockwood have been engaged in conversations with the Florida Surgeon General to secure additional doses of the vaccine and to ensure that the most vulnerable populations have access. They are also pursuing the innovative approach of GPS and heat mapping to facilitate the administration of the vaccine. On campus, Dr. Donna Peterson (senior associate vice president of USF Health) has served a key role in leading immediate and long-term concerns related to the availability and accessibility of the vaccine. To support this work, there is a USF website dedicated to information about COVID-19, and a College of Public Health COVID-19 page with up-to-date information about COVID-19 efforts on campus is also available. USF Libraries also has a Florida COVID-19 digital hub.

Our communities deserve to have a trusted source for education to help navigate all of the mixed messages, and conspiracy theories offered through social media and other avenues in relation to the pandemic, research, and health matters. WE-CARE is trying to serve as a vehicle to empower the community with solid evidence-based information so that individuals can make an informed decision about the health and life needs.

Dr. Angela Hill
Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs, Taneja College of Pharmacy

USF in the Community

WE-CARE Community Events

lunch n learn logo, we care logo, reachup logo, usf taneja college of pharmacy logo

Dr. Kevin Sneed on the Black News Channel

Dr. Sneed talks vaccine concerns, side effects and distribution hurdles.

USF researchers aim to ease COVID-19 vaccine concerns by building trust within communities of color

To combat skepticism and misinformation, the USF Health program, Workgroup Enhancing Community Advocacy and Research Engagement (WE-CARE), has joined forces with the Tampa-based organization ReachUP, Inc. to share facts about COVID-19 and the newly developed vaccine. Read more on USF News.

Dr. Sneed getting a shot of the vaccine

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a case study in health inequities. According to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, 40-year-old Black Americans are 9 times more likely to die from COVID than 40-year-old white Americans. While this disparity is due in part to overrepresentation in jobs involving close and sustained contact with the public, it is far more a consequence of racial determinants of health including a greater number and more severe pre-existing conditions, a lack of access to care and unequal treatment by providers.

Dr. Charles Lockwood, Senior Vice President of USF Health
From his Tampa Bay Times column, "On MLK Day, let’s vow to fight the inequities of being Black"

Understanding Black and Hispanic Community Members

Exploring the Origins of Vaccine Skepticism