Black History Month 2023 Spotlight Series

Recognizing partners across the country who make considerable impacts to lung health.

Kizzmekia S. Corbett, PhD

Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett was the scientific lead of the Vaccine Research Center’s coronavirus team at the U.S. National Institutes of Health where her research focused on coronavirus biology and vaccine development. Her research led to the groundbreaking discovery that a stabilized version of a spike protein, which is found on the surface of all coronaviruses, would be a key target for vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, she and her colleagues were central to the development of the Moderna mRNA vaccine and the Eli Lilly therapeutic monoclonal antibodies, both of which were first to enter clinical trials in the world. A process that typically takes years, the Phase 1 clinical trials for mRNA-1273 began an unprecedented 66 days from viral sequence release. As a result of this extraordinary achievement, mRNA-1273 is now used around the world to prevent COVID-19 disease, and her work is having a substantial impact on ending the worst respiratory-disease pandemic in more than 100 years. Dr. Corbett is now an assistant professor in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, where her laboratory studies host immune responses to coronaviruses and other emerging and re-emerging viruses to propel novel vaccine and antibody therapy development. Alongside mRNA-1273, Dr. Corbett boasts a patent portfolio which also includes universal coronavirus and influenza vaccine concepts and novel therapeutic antibodies. She has garnered an impressive array of awards and recognitions along her groundbreaking ascent: the 2022 J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding, a Time Magazine “Hero of the Year” designation in 2021, the Salzman Memorial Award in Virology and the Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Rising Star Award.

Kizzmekia S. Corbett, PhD copyright Kent Dayton

She received a BS in Biological Sciences, with a secondary major in Sociology, from the University of Maryland – Baltimore County in 2008, where she was a Meyerhoff Scholar and NIH undergraduate scholar. She obtained her PhD in Microbiology and Immunology in 2014 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Lisa P. Jackson

Lisa Perez Jackson is a chemical engineer who served as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 2009 to 2013. She was the first African American to hold that position. During her term, she focused on improving air and water quality, eliminating greenhouse gases, and expanding outreach to communities on environmental issues. Her passion, for environmental protection in helping vulnerable groups like children, the elderly, and residents of low-income areas who face threats and health issues caused by environmental risks. As head of the EPA, Jackson also championed the rights of stakeholders in decision-making processes for their communities. She is currently the Vice President of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives at Apple. Her responsibilities include minimizing Apple’s impact on the environment by addressing climate change through renewable energy and energy efficiency, using greener materials, and inventing new ways to conserve resources. She also leads Apple’s Racial Equity and Justice Initiative focused on education, economic opportunity, and criminal justice reform – and is responsible for Apple’s education policy programs its product accessibility work, and its worldwide government affair function. She was named as one of Newsweek’s “Most Important People in 2010” and featured on Time magazine’s 2010 and 2011 lists of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.”

Lisa P Jackson

Dr. Philip Gardiner, PhD and Carol McGruder

Dr. Gardiner is a public health activist, administrator, evaluator, and researcher. Throughout his research career, Dr. Gardiner has maintained his community activism to address racial disparities in health, through writing, organizing, evaluating, and public speaking. For the past 20 years, Dr. Gardiner has lectured around the country on African American health disparities generally and menthol smoking in the Black community, particularly.  Dr. Gardiner has been instrumental in shaping many local e-cigarette regulatory policies around the country. In 2013, he worked with the Chicago Department of Health to help pass a local ordinance to restrict the seeing of menthol and other flavored tobacco products within 500 feet of city schools. This was the first ordinance of this kind in the country.

Dr. Philip Gardiner

Ms. McGruder is a highly respected trainer, presenter, community advocate, program designer, researcher and writer experienced in the fields of tobacco control, transnational tobacco issues, public policy, social marketing, media advocacy, parent training, health education, and community capacity building. She is a seasoned veteran of California’s tobacco control experience and has served as an advisor in many capacities. In 2017, Ms. McGruder was honored for her community activism by the San Francisco National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In 2010, she received the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Engagement Award for her tobacco control work in San Francisco. She is also the recipient of the prestigious Jefferson Award for community activism in tobacco control, and in 2007 she was the American Legacy Foundation honoree for “Community Activist of the Year.”

Carol McGruder

Together, Dr. Gardiner and Ms. McGruder serve as founding members and co-chairs of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC), which is a group of Black professionals working at the intersection of public health policy and social justice to fight the scourge of tobacco impacting African American communities by raising awareness of the disproportionate impact of tobacco use on African Americans and successfully advocated for policies that will save Black lives. The AATCLC works with health jurisdictions, elected officials, community-based organization, tobacco researchers, activists, faith-based communities, and the media and it plays a key role in elevating the issue of regulating the sale of menthol and flavored tobacco products to one of national concern and action.

Dr. Ozuru Ukoha, MD, MSc, FACS

Dr. Ozuru is a cardiothoracic surgeon who serves as a National Spokesperson and subject matter expert for the American Lung Association with expertise in the areas of thoracic and cardiac surgery. He was born and raised in Nigeria, immigrating to the U.S. after high school. He obtained a degree in Pharmacy from the University of Missouri-Kanas City and his medical degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia Medical School. He trained in general surgery in New York and Connecticut and completed a Cardiothoracic Surgery fellowship at Yale University. He also earned a master’s degree in Clinical Research at Rush University.

Dr. Ozuru Ukoha

He is currently Chair of the Division Chair of Cardiothoracic Surgery and an Assistant Professor of Surgery at Rush University, and Chairman, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County. He considers it a labor of love and a privilege to give back to the community that has few advantages. He is the recipient of the Penfield Faber Teaching Award in Cardiothoracic Surgery.

City of Hope

City of Hope's mission is to deliver the cures of tomorrow to the people who need them today. Founded in 1913, City of Hope has grown into one of the largest cancer research and treatment organizations in the U.S. and one of the leading research centers for diabetes and other life-threatening illnesses. As an independent, National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, City of Hope brings a uniquely integrated model to patients, spanning cancer care, research and development, academics and training, and innovation initiatives.

City of Hope logo

City of Hope is one of only 53 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the US and has received a lung cancer Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant from the NCI to address the disproportionate effects of lung cancer in Black communities. The approximately $3 million award is shared with Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Massey Cancer Center and Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Hollings Cancer Center. SPORE is a cornerstone of the NCI’s efforts to promote collaborative, interdisciplinary translational cancer research, and involves both basic and clinical/applied scientists working together to support projects that will result in new and diverse approaches to the prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment of human cancers. City of Hope’s growing national system includes its main Los Angeles campus, a network of clinical care locations across Southern California, a new cancer center in Orange County, California, and Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

Page last updated: January 31, 2023

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