These volunteers are making short videos on TikTok and Instagram to explain their part in the vaccine effort.
Dr Asher Williams is a Trinidad & Tobago National Scholar, Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow at Cornell University, with a PhD. in Chemical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). The goal of her current research is to simplify vaccine manufacturing in low-income countries by creating a cell-free synthetic biology platform for the biosynthesis of conjugate vaccines. For now, she is focused on vaccines against emerging pathogens.
Asher was named a Class of 2020 Changemaker at RPI and earned a B.Sc. in Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at New York University in 2015, then worked as a NASA bioengineering research intern.
Asher was awarded an RPI Presidential Graduate Research Fellowship and during her graduate career she mentored several graduate and undergraduate students, presented at research conferences, and published over 10 co-authored papers in peer-reviewed journals, with a patent pending. Additionally, she served as Vice President of the Black Graduate Students Association at RPI, working on initiatives to increase the recruitment and retention of minority students in graduate education.
Originally from Trinidad & Tobago, Asher loves cooking and working out.
Dr Andrea Mazzella, MRCP (UK), is a Research Physician working in the NIHR Guy’s and St Thomas’ Biomedical Research Centre, and one of the investigators of three Phase III clinical trials investigating the Janssen, Novavax and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines for Covid-19. His role involves discussing the trials with volunteers, assessing their eligibility and conducting follow-up and pharmacovigilance with hundreds of trial participants.
After qualifying from medical school in Italy with an Erasmus exchange programme in Spain, Andrea moved to England to work as a doctor in the NHS. Once he completed Core Medical Training, he studied at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine for a master’s degree in Epidemiology. It was during this year that the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded; he graduated and decided to join the team of researchers working on COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials.
Andrea grew up on a tiny island in the Mediterranean and loves returning home and sailing. He has a geeky passion for linguistics and is powered by dark chocolate and nonna’s struffoli.
Dr Nathan Spence is an NHS doctor and clinical tutor working in Oxford. Specialising in Geratology, he looks after the most vulnerable and frail patients in the hospital. Tasked with working on the front line since day one of the pandemic, he knows first hand the devastating effects that COVID-19 has had on individuals and communities. With degrees in Medicine and Pathology, he creates informative social media content with a humorous twist. Nathan has been a Teaching Associate at Oxford University for 4 years, and has developed a knack for communicating medicine in an understandable and accessible way.
As a front line clinician, Nathan is responsible for helping his patients, and their relatives, to make informed decisions about COVID-19 treatment and vaccination, based on his experience and knowledge. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it misinformation, which he has observed first hand causing much anxiety and confusion. Both on the wards and on his social channels, he engages those with questions and concerns about vaccines directly, aiming to provide a trusted source of information and clarity.
Outside of medicine, Nathan is the least Irish sounding Irishman you’ve ever heard. He’s a keen rugby union fan and a qualified referee. With a near encyclopaedic knowledge of pubs in Oxford, he’s very much looking forward to the end of lockdown!
Rômulo is a Biophysicist and PhD student in Immunology and Infection at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. He was studying at the University of Califorina-Davis in the USA before returning to Brazil during the pandemic to help with research on the new coronavirus. His work focuses on understanding the mechanisms that make our bodies develop immunity against Sars-CoV-2 and the reasons why some people develop severe illness while others experience mild symptoms.
Tyler is a proud member of the nursing profession. He obtained his Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Lakehead University (Canada), initially working in critical care and cardiac intensive care. He then pursued a Master of Nursing degree from the University of Toronto (Canada) and transitioned into the nurse practitioner role, where he now specializes in pulmonology. His role includes the care of hospitalized patients (mainly patients with respiratory issues and those leaving the intensive care unit) and ambulatory patients with a variety of issues like asthma, COPD, chronic cough and interstitial lung disease. More recently Tyler has been following patients with PASC (long Covid) as well.
During the course of his career, Tyler has become passionate about combating health related misinformation, mainly related to vaccines and more recently COVID-19 and has built up a large Tik Tok following. He was also involved in the COVID-19 vaccination roll out at his organization where he was able to vaccinate hundreds of patients. Tyler’s passion extends to the clinical setting where he loves taking opportunities to educate patients – whether it be about their disease process, health promotion/prevention, or even debunking myths about vaccines (specifically influenza and COVID-19 vaccines!).
Outside of work, Tyler is an avid traveler (when Covid permits). He will find any excuse to get on a plane and visit somewhere (whether it’s Las Vegas or Europe). He also loves food, food and more food (and he will try anything once!). Of course with food comes the need for staying fit, and prior to the pandemic he was an Orangetheory Fitness fanatic! Recently, however he has fallen in love with his Peloton which has become a part of his regular routine. He also loves dogs and his current pride and joy is his pug, Titus. He is also a proud Canadian, now transplanted into the USA.
Dr. Anna Blakney is Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia and a former research fellow at Imperial College London. The Blakney Lab is a multidisciplinary group of engineers, immunologists and molecular biologists investigating the interactions between RNA, biomaterials and the immune system to prevent and treat disease. During the pandemic she focused on vaccine formulation and testing to determine whether it was safe and immunogenic.
On top of her long hours in the lab, Blakney wants to help spread accurate info about the vaccine. “I think, as academics, we have a duty to educate not only other students and scientists but the public as well,” she says. “I think it’s largely changed now but, at the beginning of the pandemic, the lag time between what was going on with the science and the public knowing about it was really long. So I made it my mission to get the word out there.
Juan Ambrosioni MD, PhD is a specialist for the HIV / AIDS Unit and Infectious Disease Service and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Barcelona. He is also an infectious disease specialist for the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina and the University of Geneva, Switzerland. Juan is involved in the Infectious Disease Service of Hospital Clinic-IDIBAPS, which runs the SARS-CoV2 vaccine project ‘Development of innovative coformulated mRNA vaccine against SARS-CoV2 (Cova-RNA)’.
Dr Tasnim Jara works as an A&E doctor in the NHS and studies evidence-based health care at the University of Oxford. As a frontline clinician, Tasnim regularly supports her patients to make evidence-based decisions about COVID-19 vaccines. Alongside fighting the pandemic, Tasnim makes short videos in Bangla to tackle covid and vaccine related misinformation. So far, her health awareness videos have been viewed for more than 280 million minutes and she has gained more than 1.5 million followers on Facebook and YouTube. Tasnim also made strategic partnerships with media, business, NGO, faith leaders, and government institutions to further broaden reach. The Business Standard named her one of 7 changemakers of 2020.
Tasnim has co founded a health-tech startup called Shohay with the aim to disseminate reliable healthcare information in Bangla.
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