COVID vaccination rates are tremendously low in communities of color in Kansas City. On average, only 43% of individuals get vaccinated, which is about 7% lower than the national average. Read more….
One year after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, UMKC School of Medicine Dean Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., says we are getting closer to returning to normal.
The first reported cases of a novel coronavirus called SARS CoV-2 were in December of 2019, and on March 11, 2020 – one year ago today – the Director-General of the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. Based on the spread of COVID-19 to 114 countries and alarmingly high case-fatality rates, the declaration came with a caveat: with detection, testing, treating, isolating, tracing and mobilizing a response, we could change the course of this pandemic. At that time in the United States, there were 1,762 cases. Today we stand at more than 29 million cases and 528,829 people have lost their lives. We have seen the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on our Black, Hispanic, and Native American populations, and many Americans have lost their jobs, income and housing. People have suffered disruptions in family bonding and lost family members to this disease. The human toll and downstream consequences – related to many who have avoided routine medical care, routine immunizations and cancer screenings – will have a cumulative impact on both physical and mental health. This impact will likely be seen for many years to come.
Children, while less likely to have severe disease, now account for more than 3.2 million – or 13.2% – of the COVID-19 cases across our country. The pandemic has taken an enormous toll on our youngest, most of whom have not been able to attend in-person school and have been isolated from family and friends. Children have lost multiple family members, many are food-insecure, and all have suffered at least some degree of toxic stress from the pandemic. This result is now being manifest as an increase in emergency room visits for mental health and behavioral complaints. In our community, we are just starting to return to at least partial in-person education for those who attend public schools in both Missouri and Kansas. In most cases, a hybrid of virtual and in-person learning remains the norm of today. The cumulative loss in learning for a child could average 5-9 months by the end of the school year. And for students of color, who lack internet, devices and appropriate places to study, the loss could be as much as 12 months. We must invest in bridging this gap and make sure every child has an opportunity for success.
As the pandemic unfolded, we were forced to make changes, to adapt and quickly evolve like we’d never done before in the 50-year history of our medical school. We are proud of the curricular innovation we brought to meet student needs and to ensure teaching, supervision and assessment. We kept student advancement our top focus. And we celebrated our students who graduated in 2020 – the first-ever to finish their medical school journey with virtual electives – with an entirely virtual Match Day and an entirely virtual graduation sending them off to residency programs to join the front lines of care. Even as we brought back students to clinical rotations last summer, we continued with a largely virtual biomedical science curriculum taught by talented faculty who, too, were learning to optimize virtual learning while navigating the pandemic personally. We saw flexibility and resilience from all of our students, staff and faculty to move forward all students – medical students, physician assistant and anesthesia assistant students – in their medical journey. Our senior students who will celebrate Match Day next Friday, with a virtual ceremony, will now join our medical community as they pursue residency training in a new era alongside their physician assistant and anesthesia assistant colleagues who are starting practice.
Now, we will join our current senior students to celebrate Match Day next Friday – again with a virtual ceremony – to mark their steps into the medical community to pursue residency training in a new era.
There are many reasons to be encouraged. The pace of disease has slowed, and we are seeing the lowest number of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths since last spring. Prediction models suggest that a third of the population has natural immunity – I taking the number of cases we know, combined with the estimate of the number who have had asymptomatic infection. And there are some experts who suggest SARS CoV-2 may have a seasonality where summer may produce a natural reprieve. Add to that we are welcoming the era of COVID-19 vaccines – the clear path that will lead to the herd immunity necessary to stop the spread of this deadly virus. Today, we stand at three vaccines that have received emergency-use authorization and have all demonstrated the ability to reduce serious disease and deaths. Nearly 19% of the U.S. population has received a first dose of vaccine and 2.17 million doses are being administered every day as of March 4, 2021. While vaccine supply is not yet ready to meet demand, we expect enough vaccine from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson by end of April to fully vaccinate more than 200 million adults. That would put us on pace to have 50% of the population vaccinated by May 25. There is still a huge logistical challenge to providing equitable access to vaccination, and approximately one-half of those 65 and older have not yet received the vaccine. We need to prioritize getting vaccines to our seniors, as we know that age is a predictor of hospitalization and mortality from COVID-19. When compared to someone 30 years of age, it’s a 100 times greater risk for death in those 65 and older, a 1,000 times greater risk of death in those 75 and older, and a 10,000 times greater risk of death for those who are 85 and older. Ensuring access and reducing logistical challenges for this population is critical even as we open up access to more eligible populations.
As we vaccinate more and more Americans, the CDC provided new guidance this week: Those who are fully vaccinated can safety gather with family and friends. At the same time, experts are still recommending restrictions on travel. This caution relates to the increase in spread of vaccine variant viruses across the U.S. and the plateau of cases seen in many states. This may portend another surge of disease, even as we seem to be on the cusp of recovery. Vaccine manufacturers are already progressing on the work needed to provide a booster or multi-virus vaccine to address the variant spread.
So, on this day, one year into the pandemic that has disrupted all of our lives in ways we could have never imagined, know that we will return to normal. And know that we are increasingly getting closer to the point that we put the pandemic in our rear-view mirror.
UMKC is one of the fortunate few universities in the United State to have its health professions schools clustered on one campus, and its medical, nursing, pharmacy and dental faculty and students have been on the front lines fighting this pandemic.
This Q & A round table with the UMKC Health Sciences Campus deans will be updated often with the latest information about the COVID-19 vaccine, its effects, distribution and developments.
Mary Anne Jackson, dean of the School of Medicine; Russ Melchert, dean of the School of Pharmacy and interim dean of the School of Dentistry; and Joy Roberts, interim dean of the School of Nursing and Health Studies, are involved in leading vaccination efforts for our campus and Kansas City area communities.
After you get the vaccine, should you still follow social distancing guidelines? Should you still quarantine if you’re exposed to someone who’s tested positive for COVID-19?
Jackson: Yes, you should still mask and socially distance. The CDC just came out with new guidelines on quarantining. You do not need to if it’s been two weeks or longer after your second dose.
Currently, there are two companies that have two-dose vaccines, Moderna and Pfizer. How are they being distributed?
Jackson: States are distributing, and there is no clarity on how many doses each site is given. It is in a tiered system, with frontline workers receiving in the first tier. (Here are the tiered vaccination distribution plans for Missouri and Kansas).
Roberts: Distribution of the vaccine from the federal government to the states has been a tremendous challenge. Once the supply is large enough and is rapidly distributed to the states, the benefit to Americans will be clearly visible.
Melchert: We are preparing and beginning to plan how we might more broadly impact our communities and especially those in Phase 1A, Phase 1B Tier 1 and Tier 2 who are currently eligible. Teaming with our regional and state partners to leverage our assets with theirs is essential to efficiently reach those who are eligible to receive the vaccine. To that end, we need to get vaccine and we are trying. It is really difficult right now with the short supply and high demand. However, I suppose the high demand is a good thing because the more folks who get vaccinated, the more likely we are to achieve “community immunity.”
How should people sign up for the vaccine?
Jackson: The best strategy is to register in multiple places, with your county, and with your primary-care physician on their websites (In Missouri, here are the Jackson, Clay and Platte county sites; in Kansas, here are the Johnson and Wyandotte county sites).
What is getting the vaccine like?
Roberts: The vaccine injection was done by the very skilled registered nurses at Truman Medical Center. The injection was not any more painful than any other shot, however the muscle was later sore for about 8 hours. After that, there were no issues. Our partners at TMC are operating a very well organized vaccination clinic providing expert nursing care and safety measures.
How effective is the vaccine?
Jackson: Both the Moderna and Pfizer have high rates of effectiveness, including against the UK B117 variant (a newer mutation believed to be more infectious) and has some coverage against the more mutated South African strain. It cannot give the infection, none of the vaccines contain live virus. It won’t change your DNA – it uses small amounts of messenger RNA that guides your body to make the antibodies, then breaks down; it cannot enter your DNA. It won’t cause infertility; there is no link to miscarriages or infertility. Still, those who are pregnant should consult with their physician.
How has UMKC helped the community with the vaccine?
Melchert: The School of Pharmacy has an army of student pharmacists and faculty pharmacists who are certified and very experienced with providing vaccinations, including the wonderful work they do every year to provide influenza vaccines for the UMKC community. Many of our students and faculty are also participating with many of our partner organizations in Kansas City, Columbia, Springfield and around the state. Dr. Cameron Lindsey and her team are partnering with the Medical Research Corp of Kansas City, the Greater Kansas City Dental Society, the Missouri Dental Association, KC CARE Health Center and others to offer a clinic in February for local area health practitioners, especially dental practitioners, pharmacists, nurses and emergency medical technicians and others in Phase 1A who have not otherwise had an opportunity to get vaccinated. Keeping our health care providers protected will increase capacity to serve those needing services.
Roberts: The School of Nursing and Health Studies has students and faculty who are educated and skilled vaccinators, ready to assist in the immunization effort as soon as mass vaccination sites have enough vaccine available. Our students have had the option to volunteer as COVID testers and as vaccinators at various sites in the metro area, including at the UMKC Student Health Center.
Jackson: Besides being vaccinators, we provide information about the vaccine at forums. The School of Medicine hosted “COVID Vaccine: Fact or Fiction,” a virtual community-wide forum with school faculty and alumni physicians on Feb. 4.
Tell us about the latest developments with the vaccine.
Jackson: Upon approval, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has a good safety and effectiveness profile, a single dosage and no cold chain issues (they don’t require the ultra-cold storage like the current vaccines do), which makes this vaccine a potential game changer if we can get a large supply.
Give us your final thoughts about the vaccine.
Roberts: The COVID 19 pandemic has been a colossal challenge to the United States. The rapid creation of a safe, effective vaccine is nothing short of miraculous. This vaccine needs to be distributed as quickly as possible to all Americans, utilizing every trained vaccinator from registered nurses to pharmacists to physicians, while at the same time being shared globally. It will take immunizing the global population to end this pandemic.
Jackson: There are no restrictions on who can receive. The oldest and those with immune-compromising conditions may not have immune response that is as good as those who are younger and healthier, but there is no downside to the vaccine.
Melchert: The vaccine is a huge step for us to combat COVID. The more informed we can be about the safety of the vaccine, the more people can benefit from the protection it provides. However, keeping each other safe, even with the vaccine, includes continuing to be vigilant with wearing masks, washing hands, social distancing and remaining at home when you have symptoms.
Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., dean of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, is an infectious disease expert. Also an alumna from the UMKC School of Medicine’s innovative six-year B.A./M.D. program, she served as one of six physicians statewide advising Missouri Governor Mike Parson about COVID-19, and was recently named senior advisor of public health in a five-member volunteer group on how Jackson County should spend its $122 million in CARES Act funding.
On numerous media appearances, Jackson has answered questions about evidence-based practices in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Here are just a few examples she’s dispelled of legend and lore about COVID-19:
1. A chiropractor has been publicizing an IV vitamin C product as a possible treatment for COVID-19. Anything to that?
Jackson: While there is biologic plausibility based on the hypothesis that when an individual suffers a severe infection, vitamin C which is necessary for cellular and tissue function, is depleted, there is no scientific evidence to support the use of vitamin C in the management of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. There is no data to support its use as prophylaxis that would be given in a chiropractor’s office.
One study registered at clinicaltrials.gov, will investigate the use of IV vitamin C in SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia patients in China using a randomized control trial protocol. The randomized control trial using a standard control group receiving placebo vs. the treatment group excludes bias and allows the outcome variable to be clear. This is especially important for COVID-19 where we know many cases spontaneously improve. There have been two recently published studies that are “open label” (no control group) to study the use of vitamin C in non-SARS-CoV-2 infections where individuals suffered from shock and acute respiratory distress syndrome. Neither showed clear evidence of benefit.
What is interesting is that anti-vaxxers appear to be circulating information on social media to drive the unproven messaging around vitamin C. For treatment of disease, trust a well-trained healthcare professional who practices evidence-based medicine and has extensive clinical experience.
2. Does heat kill the coronavirus? For example, the sun? A hot bath? Drinking hot water?
Jackson: There is no evidence of a benefit to flushing the virus from your system by drinking hot water or taking a hot bath. Drinking water will keep one hydrated and that is recommended for all.
The concept that heat can affect the virus is one worth discussing. The virus that causes COVID-19 is an enveloped virus, and enveloped viruses do generally demonstrate sensitivity to temperature and therefore may be more likely to appear or disappear during certain seasons related to temperature.
Research on other enveloped viruses suggests that this oily outer coat makes the viruses more susceptible to heat than those that do not have one. In colder conditions, the oily coat hardens into a rubber-like state, much like fat from cooked meat will harden as it cools, to protect the virus for longer when it is outside the body.
Many viruses wax and wane in seasons. Influenza typically arrives with the colder winter months. So does norovirus and RSV. Measles cases drop during the summer in temperate climates, and increase when schools are in session.
But we have no information about how the virus that causes COVID-19 will change with the seasons.
For one thing, pandemic viruses often don’t follow the same seasonal patterns seen in more normal outbreaks. Spanish flu, for example, peaked in the summer, while the typical seasonal flu peaks occur during the winter.
Even if COVID-19 does show some seasonal variability, it likely will persist to some degree and not totally disappear in the summer. A dip in cases will bring benefits, however. If it decreases in the summer, it is likely to re-emerge again in the fall. But there will be fewer susceptible individuals at that point, too, so potentially fewer cases-depending on how much of the population remains susceptible after the first wave.
3. If there has been a day of rain followed by sunshine, is playground equipment safe from COVID-19?
4. Jackson: As the weather warms, people will want to be outdoors and I’ve seen more people in our community outdoor walking and running in neighborhoods and in areas of parks and trails. It’s important to be outside to keep healthy, physically and mentally. And I especially like that I’ve seen families outside with their kids, who need to be active especially since they have no school and can’t be out with friends.
CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) have been emphasizing that to control the COVID-19 epidemic, we must “flatten the curve” — that is, reduce the amount of transmission of the virus. We know that one proven way to accomplish this is by physical distancing — keeping six feet or more from other individuals and taking precautions to wash hands, refrain from being in enclosed spaces with other people, disinfect surfaces and other precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.
But do not take the kids to public playgrounds–you’ll find that all are cordoned off so that equipment can’t be accessed. Not only would open play areas encourage the kind of close contact we are trying to limit, but also, contaminated surfaces have been found to have detectable virus–including plastic and stainless steel. The duration that virus could exist on wood is not clearly known. There is no good evidence that following rain and with a day of sunshine, the playground is safe. There is no present guidance from CDC on how best to manage these spaces, including recommended cleaning and disinfection for outdoor equipment to prevent transmission of the coronavirus.
Bottom line: Avoid the playground (and play dates) for kids while you are social distancing unless it is the playground in your own backyard for your family.
4. Should you consider deliberately exposing yourself to inoculate yourself?
Jackson: In the past, some parents participated in “chickenpox parties” to intentionally expose their unvaccinated children to a child with chickenpox in hopes that they would get the disease. CDC strongly recommends against hosting or participating in these events because serious complications and even death can follow infection and one cannot predict how severe the disease will be.
Now the same bad idea has emerged related to COVID-19. On March 24, it was announced that an individual in Kentucky tested positive for the novel coronavirus after they attended a “coronavirus party” for people in their 20s.
Young people are less at risk of developing serious complications of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, but they may still require hospitalization for serious symptoms. And even someone who only contracts a mild case of the disease can spread it to vulnerable people.
We need to wait for the vaccine–and until then continue social distancing.
5. Can livestock pass COVID-19 on through our food supply?
Jackson: There are some food products that can be contaminated and pose a risk for transmission to humans–like E coli, norovirus and hepatitis A. That is why there is emphasis on food preparation safety in general.
The bacteria and viruses that are transmitted by food products are those that cause gastrointestinal infection. SARS-CoV-2 is a respiratory virus and there is no known foodborne risk for transmission.
There is no evidence that livestock or any other food product in the U.S. is a vector for transmission of the virus, and there is no evidence of human or animal food or food packaging to be associated with disease transmission.
There is no risk of food product recalls, and the U.S. food supply is safe.
6. Will drinking lots of water wash the virus down to your stomach where it will be killed by stomach acid? What about drinking bleach? Can you ward off the virus by eating food with higher PH level?
Jackson: Washing the virus down the esophagus will not reduce the risk of coronavirus and the virus is resistant to the diluted acid in the stomach
Gargling with water or with an antiseptic solution, compared to doing neither, did reduce reports of respiratory symptoms in a study from Japan. However, the findings don’t necessarily apply to COVID-19 – and it’s dangerous to assume that they do.
The main risk is from breathing in tiny droplets containing thousands of viral particles after an infected person coughs or sneezes within 6 feet from you.
The overwhelming evidence suggests that the best approach remains avoiding unnecessary social contact and washing your hands. So, put down the water and pick up the soap instead.
Drinking bleach is not a cure and is dangerous–it can result in vomiting, diarrhea and liver failure. Some bleach-based cleaners, however, are helpful for keeping surfaces virus-free.
7. Pets cannot spread the coronavirus, can they?
Jackson: This virus is thought to have jumped from animals to humans, but there is no evidence that it is spreading among pets or from cats and dogs to their owners. Cats have been infected, both at the zoo and in homes-but there is no evidence that cat to human transmission is a significant concern. There was one instance in Hong Kong where a dog tested positive, but the dog was well, and it was thought contaminated by secretions from the infected pet owner.
The CDC suggests letting family members without symptoms take on pet care and recommends that people with symptoms should avoid close contact such as “petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.”
When you care for your pets, wash your hands before and after handling and feeding.
8. Does ibuprofen make COVID-19 symptoms worse?
Jackson: I first heard of the ibuprofen alert after a report from the French health minister, Olivier Veran, identified that it could be a factor in worsening the infection based on anecdotal reports from physicians treating patients in that country. Then there was a letter that was published in the British medical journal The Lancet Respiratory Medicine where it was hypothesized that ibuprofen could make it easier for the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, to enter cells. The theory is that ibuprofen could increase the levels of ACE2, which is a protein that the coronavirus uses to enter cells and might therefore increase the risk of serious infection. However, there is no evidence that ibuprofen raises ACE2 levels.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says more research is needed, but right now, there is “no evidence that ibuprofen increases the risk of serious complications or of acquiring the virus that causes COVID-19.”
There are reasons in general to avoid ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) because they are known to have gastrointestinal, kidney and cardiovascular side effects, which may be especially dangerous in very ill or elderly patients or in those with preexisting conditions.
9. Does putting petroleum jelly in your nose prevent the virus from getting into pores? Will rinsing your nose with saline prevent the virus?
Jackson: In the face of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, it’s natural that we’re looking for ways to stay healthy. Washing your hands and practicing social distancing are two proven pieces of advice that are more important than ever.
A dry nose can make one more vulnerable to viruses and certainly is an irritant for those who suffer allergies. A water-based product can help. Using saline or saltwater nose rinses will not prevent the virus, but in certain people with asthma for instance, who also have nasal and sinus symptoms, a saltwater nasal wash, or nasal irrigation, can help reduce nasal symptoms that can aggravate asthma.
According to National Jewish Health, a nasal wash:
- Cleans mucus from the nose, so medication can be more effective
- Cleans allergens and irritants from the nose, reducing their impact
- Cleans bacteria and viruses from the nose, decreasing infections
- Decreases swelling in the nose and increases airflow
But do not use tap water for the nasal wash. Do not use well water. Only use distilled or sterilized water for nasal rinses. And follow the CDC water preparation guidelines for proper preparation.
Avoid petroleum jelly in the nose–it can be inhaled and cause lung injury called lipid pneumonia. Don’t use antibiotic ointment either–that type of ointment does not fight viruses.
10. Can kids die from COVID-19?
Jackson: While children have been generally spared from COVID-19, pediatric cases requiring intensive care have occurred within our state and there are rare child deaths. The burden of disease is far less for children than influenza though.
A new syndrome, recently described, called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). MIS-C is an inflammatory response with organ dysfunction, thought to be triggered by prior exposure to SARS CoV-2. On May 14, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control issued a health advisory, to alert providers to this condition, which has now been identified in at least 19 different states and Washington DC. Parents should report to their pediatric provider if their child develops fevers especially associated with a rash. While the prognosis is good, children have suffered shock and required intensive care–the syndrome is extremely rare and we are still learning more about it.
11. If you can hold your breath for 10 seconds, does that mean you don’t have the virus?
Jackson: It is true that those with serious lung disease of many types, such as emphysema, may not be able to hold their breath for 10 seconds.
Many respiratory viral infections make it difficult to hold your breath because the airway is irritated. The inability to do so does not identify those who have COVID-19.
This false claim was first attributed to someone at Stanford University Medicine–and the spokesperson at Stanford denies it came from them, and on March 12, they posted on social media that this was misinformation.
The only way to know if one is infected by SARS-CoV-2 is by testing secretions obtained by a swab placed in the nose/throat and having the specimen tested in a laboratory.
12. Is cupping a treatment for COVID-19?
Jackson: Cupping is a process whereby the skin is bruised using a suction cup over the skin, and is used in traditional Chinese medicine for a variety of ailments. It is being studied in a Chinese population convalescing from COVID-19, but there is no evidence that it is beneficial at this point.
13. Is proning a treatment for COVID-19?
Jackson: There is no specific treatment for COVID-19 and we currently rely on supportive intensive care including oxygen, IV fluids andmechanical ventilation. Of specific therapies targeting SARS-CoV-2, none have been adequately studied, but there are some encouraging reports. Prone positioning of those with respiratory failure, meaning having the patient on a ventilator lay face down, was shown in a small study to result in better lung function with better oxygen levels and this treatment is being incorporated into care now.
Other therapies which are being examined include the use of hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug which was shown to inhibit virus in a small study when paired with an antibiotic called azithromycin. We now know that there is no data to support its efficacy and individuals accessing chloroquine products and suffering life-threatening toxicity.
There are a couple broad-spectrum antiviral agents (one used in Ebola called remdesivir) that are being studied. Remdesivir is an intravenous drug used for those with serious COVID who require hospitalization and treated patients have shown a shortened course of disease.
Drugs that modify an inflammatory over-response seen in COVID-19 appear promising. These agents inhibit IL-6, an immune modifier, and are also being studied in severe cases of COVID-19.
14. Even though COVID is here to stay, at least for the next six months to a year, is it okay for me to go out into the community now? Can I go to the doctor for my routine care?
Jackson: We have successfully flattened the curve here in Kansas City, but COVID is continuing to circulate. The chance that you’ll be exposed to SARS CoV-2, is related to three factors:
- what activity you are involved in
- your proximity to others
- the duration of exposure
Risk is greatest for indoor exposure where individuals are in close quarters with a large group of people. After a choir practice that took place in Washington on March 17, 2020, among 122 choir members, 87% of the group became infected from one infected member–it appears the act of singing amplified the spread of the virus. In contrast, if one is outdoors for a limited time, and can socially distance from others, the risk is very low.
In terms of going back to your doctor for routine appointments, every provider in our community is prepared to care for patients even while the virus is still circulating. It is especially important that infants and children visit their pediatrician and get their immunizations on time. Many pediatricians are asking parents to call on arrival to the office, and the provider will text when the office is ready to place the patient directly into an examination room. We don’t want a measles outbreak in our community while we’re still tackling COVID!
Two of the five advisors named to help guide Jackson County on spending CARES Act funds from the federal government are top UMKC faculty members: School of Medicine Dean Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., and Clara Irazábal-Zurita, Ph.D., director of the Latinx and Latin American Studies program and professor of planning in the Department of Architecture, Urban Planning + Design.
The county received about $122 million under the federal government’s CARES Act to aid the county’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of the volunteer advisory group will provide recommendations to County Executive Frank White Jr. and the legislature on how to allocate funding consistent with CARES Act restrictions to have the greatest and most direct impact for the community.
Joining Jackson and Irazabal-Zurita on the advisory group are former Kansas City Mayor Sly James, former Kansas City Mayor Pro-Tem and Councilwoman Cindy Circo and accountant Rachelle Styles.
Jackson, who is also an alumna from the UMKC School of Medicine, will be the senior advisor on public health. In addition to her role as dean, she is a pediatric infectious diseases expert, affiliated with Children’s Mercy and internationally known for her research. She is widely recognized for developing one of the nation’s leading and most robust pediatric infectious diseases programs.
She serves as a member of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee, at the direction of the United States Assistant Secretary of Health, to provide recommendations for ways to achieve optimal prevention of human infectious diseases through vaccine development.
During the current COVID-19 crisis, Jackson has served as one of the six physicians statewide advising Missouri Governor Mike Parson. She also continues to be a frequently sourced expert for the media and national publications.
Irazabal-Zurita will be the senior advisor on community development and humanitarian response. Before joining UMKC, she was the Latin Lab director and associate professor of urban planning in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University in New York City.
In her research and teaching, she explores the interactions of culture, politics and placemaking, and their impact on community development and socio-spatial justice in Latin American cities and Latino and immigrant communities.
Three members of the UMKC community with expertise in emergency medicine and public health have been appointed by Mayor Quinton Lucas to the Kansas City Health Commission.
Erica Carney, M.D., was appointed co-chair of the commission, which provides oversight for the city’s Community Health Improvement Plan and fosters collaborative community efforts in the wider metropolitan area. Lucas said Carney’s work had been instrumental in the city’s response to COVID-19 and collaboration with area health providers.
Carney is a graduate of the UMKC School of Medicine’s innovative six-year B.A./M.D. program, an assistant professor in emergency medicine, an emergency care physician at Truman Medical Centers and the medical director of emergency medical services for the City of Kansas City.
“I was fortunate enough to complete my emergency medicine residency at UMKC, where I served as one of the emergency medicine chiefs,” Carney said. “I found my love for emergency medical services after responding to the Joplin tornado.”
Carney said her areas of interest included improving survival rates for out-of-hospital heart attack patients from lower socioeconomic ZIP codes, improving health care for people who need and use the system the most, and improving public safety, including response to disasters and special situations such as COVID-19.
“The best defense to the unknown is a united front in the name of public protection, and I truly feel that our region is leading the way,” Carney said.
The mayor also appointed to the commission Joseph Lightner, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor and director of the Bachelor of Science in Public Health Program at the UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies, and Austin Strassle, a housing stabilization specialist at Truman who earned his bachelor’s degree in urban studies/affairs from UMKC in 2016.
Lightner has helped launch the School of Nursing’s undergraduate public health degree and worked to involve undergraduates in innovative research bringing fitness and nutrition programs to area schools. In his research and outreach, Lightner has collaborated with community groups and institutions including Kansas City schools and the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and Health Department.
Strassle, who also has a master’s in city/urban, community and regional planning from the University of Kansas, has worked for three and a half years at Truman as a mental health caseworker. He also was the leader of a successful community campaign to get the Kansas City Council to ban the use of conversion therapy on minors by licensed medical practitioners.
The mayor, in making his appointments, said it was important to have “experts in outreach to at-risk communities” on the commission, along with “medical professionals with specialties in trauma, infectious disease treatment, pediatric and prenatal care; supporters for survivors of domestic violence; advocates for residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities; educators; long-time community health reformers; and more.”
Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., has been announced as the next dean of the UMKC School of Medicine, effective May 1, 2020.
Having served as interim dean since July 2018, she now becomes the ninth dean in the school’s nearly 50-year history. A 1978 graduate of UMKC’s innovative six-year medical school program, Jackson is the first alumnus and the third woman to lead the School of Medicine.
Jackson is a pediatric infectious diseases expert, affiliated with Children’s Mercy and internationally known for her research. During the current COVID-19 crisis, she is one of the six physicians statewide advising Missouri Governor Mike Parson. She also continues to be a frequently sourced expert for the media and national publications.
“I am honored to serve as the dean for this medical school, which has been ahead of the curve in educating and mentoring physicians and health professionals for nearly half a century,” Jackson said. “I look forward to helping grow its research enterprise to improve the health of our community and beyond.”
Jackson, a professor of pediatrics, joined the School of Medicine faculty in 1984.
UMKC Chancellor Mauli Agrawal announced Jackson’s appointment and that of Jenny Lungren, Ph.D., as executive vice chancellor, in a letter to the university on April 28. Both had been serving their roles on an interim basis.
“In this challenging time, there is an immediate need for stable, innovative leadership,” Agrawal said. “Drs. Lundgren and Jackson have led with intellect and heart during the pandemic, and I have full confidence that they will continue to capably help us navigate through the uncharted territory ahead.”
Jackson is recognized locally, regionally and nationally as a master clinician and educator on the topic of pediatric infectious diseases. The American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Infectious Diseases Executive Committee honored her with the 2019 Award for Lifetime Contribution in Infectious Diseases Education last October.
She has served on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Red Book Committee on Infectious Diseases, a publication that provides guidance on the diagnosis, treatment, manifestations and epidemiology of more than 200 childhood conditions. She is also a journal reviewer for American Journal of Infection Control, Journal of Pediatrics, Pediatrics, Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal and JAMA Pediatrics, among many other research publications.
Jackson has won numerous awards for her mentorship including the Children’s Mercy Department of Pediatrics Excellence in Mentoring award in 2015, and Golden Apple Mentoring Awards in 2012 for mentoring fellows and in 2013 for mentoring residents. In 2012, she received the Take Wing Award, presented annually at the School of Medicine to an alum who has demonstrated excellence in his or her chosen field and exceeded the expectations of peers in the practice of medicine, academic medicine or research.
In 2017, Jackson was selected to the National Vaccine Advisory Committee. She also serves on the American Heart Association’s Committee on Cardiovascular Disease in the Young, as well as additional national, regional and local committees.
The need for personal protective equipment — called PPE — is one of the most serious challenges facing healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Every health care institution in the U.S. has a critical shortage of PPE and no help is on the way in terms of federal stock to replenish the supply. The call to inventory PPE at other sites that have available stock is one way to provide the help needed by hospitals, and that is why the University of Missouri-Kansas City is on a mission to find and share currently unused PPE. So far, UMKC has located and given about 20,000 masks, tens of thousands of pairs of gloves and hundreds of gowns to local hospitals.
“What we are doing on the UMKC Health Sciences Campus is working with our colleagues across the university to identify PPE that can be deployed to those hospitals most in need, and we are sharing that precious equipment,” said Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., interim dean at the UMKC School of Medicine.
Jackson, who specializes in infectious disease, is a national expert on the new coronavirus. She said proper PPE is crucial.
“Caring for patients with COVID-19 in our hospitals requires institutions to provide explicit guidance so staff can identify patients that need hospitalization and use all measures to prevent spread to other patients, and to themselves.” – Mary Anne Jackson, M.D.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic engulfs the United States, there are gaps in our scientific knowledge to tell us how many have been infected, and to identify the full spectrum of symptoms and signs. Adequate and reliable testing to help us correctly identify cases has not been widely available,” she said. “Still, the patients come and we care for them. Caring for patients with COVID-19 in our hospitals requires institutions to provide explicit guidance so staff can identify patients that need hospitalization and use all measures to prevent spread to other patients, and to themselves.”
To date, Italy, the hardest-hit country in the world, has seen an enormous number of cases; 20% of those infected are the doctors and nurses caring for the patients, Jackson said.
“Across the country, we are already seeing New York in a desperate situation,” Jackson said. “California, Washington state and now Louisiana, all are seeing a steep uptick in cases that threaten to overwhelm the healthcare system within the next week, and states like ours are only weeks behind unless we strictly enforce social distancing to reduce spread. That is why schools and businesses are closed and our mayor has issued a stay-at-home order. We face caring for patients without bed capacity, ventilators or the PPE needed to keep our workforce safe and operational.”
“What we are doing on the UMKC Health Sciences Campus is working with our colleagues across the university to identify PPE that can be deployed to those hospitals most in need, and we are sharing that precious equipment.” – Jackson, M.D.
Within minutes of being asked if the UMKC School of Dentistry had surplus PPE it could part with, Dean Marsha Pyle and her colleagues rounded up a large inventory of boxes filled with gowns, masks and gloves that are not being utilized as the dental clinics have closed to all but emergency patients.
Later, the UMKC schools of Nursing and Health Studies and Biological and Chemical Sciences also donated. KC STEM Alliance at the School of Computing and Engineering gave 500 pairs of goggles. These were brought to local hospitals where staff said supplies were critically low.
“We do know that everyone wants to help and there has been a grassroots effort to have the community sew cloth masks. A recent study of cloth masks cautions against their use…so these are not the protection that healthcare workers can use in the healthcare environment at this time.” – Jackson, M.D.
Students from the UMKC Schools of Medicine and Dentistry led by Stefanie Ellison, associate dean for learning Initiatives at the School of Medicine and Richard Bigham, assistant dean of student programs at the School of Dentistry, are collaborating to identify other sources in the community and coordinating efforts to collect and distribute these vital supplies to local healthcare workers on the front lines. Others in the community that may be willing to donate their supplies include:
- Nail, hair, tattoo and piercing salons
- Local carpenters and maintenance workers, especially if contracted with apartment complexes, professional painters, drywallers, construction/machine operators, welders
- Professional colleagues in veterinary medicine
- Others in the local and regional dental community
- Warehouses (such as UHaul), mechanics, auto shops
- Cleaning services, or any organization that employs janitorial services or cafeterias
- Any organization with nursing stations (pools, gyms, schools)
“We are also aware that our colleagues at Missouri S&T have developed a prototype for a face shield and N95 respirators (a protective mask designed to achieve a close facial fit with highly- efficient filtration of airborne particles) that could be mass produced, and we’re actively looking for community resources to do so,” Jackson said. “We do know that everyone wants to help and there has been a grassroots effort to have the community sew cloth masks. A recent study of cloth masks cautions against their use: moisture retention, reuse and poor filtration may result in increased risk of infection so these are not the protection that healthcare workers can use in the healthcare environment at this time.”
Shortages of PPE are severe and increasing because of hoarding, misuse and increased demand, according to the World Health Organization. There is clear data that pricing for surgical masks has increased sixfold, N95 respirator prices have tripled and even gown costs have doubled. The governor of New York has criticized the price gouging that prevents him from getting the masks he needs in the most urgent of situations there.
The WHO has shipped 500,000 sets of PPE to 27 countries, but supplies are rapidly depleting and that stock won’t nearly cover the need. It estimates that PPE supplies need to increase by 40%, and manufacturers are rapidly scaling up production and urging governments to offer incentives to boost supplies, including easing restrictions on the export and distribution of PPE and other medical supplies.
This from WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “This cannot be solved by WHO alone, or one industry alone. It requires all of us working together to ensure all countries can protect the people who protect the rest of us.”
To donate to the UMKC PPE initiative, please email Stefanie Ellison at firstname.lastname@example.org and Richard Bigham at email@example.com.