The Charger Blog

University’s Health Sciences Faculty Serve as Sought After Experts During Global Pandemic

A host of faculty members in the University of New Haven’s School of Health Sciences have shared their expertise, advice, and insights with media outlets around the world, helping to educate the public about COVID-19.

April 20, 2021

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Image of Summer McGee.
Summer McGee, Ph.D., answers WFSB Eyewitness News viewers’ questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

A dedicated public health expert and educator, Summer McGee, Ph.D., has been front and center on campus, as well as nationally and internationally, going above and beyond to foster awareness and education throughout the global coronavirus pandemic.

Dean of the University’s School of Health Sciences and the University’s COVID-19 coordinator, Dr. McGee has been a media staple for news organizations reporting on the pandemic. Whether she has answered WFSB Eyewitness News viewers’ questions about the COVID-19 vaccine or discussed the removal of a mask mandate in Texas, Dr. McGee has offered insights aimed at keeping the public safe. She has also offered her expertise on the development of the vaccines and the importance of achieving herd immunity.

“Every time there is a new COVID-19 infection, we are giving the virus a chance to mutate and develop more transmissible or deadly variants,” Dr. McGee recently told NBC News. “The sooner we reach herd immunity and stop chains of transmission, the less impact these variants are likely to have because it will be so much harder for COVID-19 to find an unvaccinated individual.”

Dr. McGee has not been alone in her efforts to promote public health and safety. Colleague Karl Minges, Ph.D., MPH, chair of the University’s Health Administration and Policy Department, has, most recently, been discussing the COVID-19 vaccine with a variety of media outlets. He has weighed in on whether or not companies might make the vaccine mandatory, as well as the effectiveness of the vaccine.

“They’re highly effective, they’re safe. But at the end of the day, they’re not 100 percent entirely effective,” Dr. Minges told Boston 25 News. “So, you could have a scenario where someone gets the COVID-19 vaccination and then they are one of the five percent or 10 percent or, in some cases, 20 percent of people who still get the virus. Maybe they don’t even know it. And then they’re going to even these small gatherings and spreading that virus.”

Karl Minges, Ph.D., MPH
Karl Minges, Ph.D., MPH was recently featured on Boston 25 News.
‘We want to get as many people to get vaccinated as possible’

The question of whether or not employers can require workers to get the vaccine is a topic that Alvin Tran, Sc.D., MPH, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Administration and Policy, and associate provost of diversity and inclusion, has also discussed with the media. He recently reached a national audience, discussing the issue with Business Insider.

"If they are able and willing to incentivize workers to get the vaccine, I commend that because we want to get as many people to get vaccinated as possible," he said, stating that he would be in favor of private employers mandating vaccination while allowing employees with specific objections to opt out.

Faculty members have also discussed issues facing Connecticut, as well as states around the country. Jessica Holzer, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the University’s Health Administration and Policy Department, recently spoke with KTVU, a California-based television station, when Santa Clara County officials wanted an exemption from the state's COVID vaccination plan.

"The difference between counties in California is that a state-wide protocol is just not going to meet the needs for everyone in the county," she said. "So, county-level professionals are going to know their county best. They’re going to know their populations, they’re going to know their doctors. They’re going to know their pharmacies. They’re just going to have the tightest relationship."

Michael Urban, OTD, MBA, M.S
Michael Urban, OTD, MBA, M.S. in a recent interview with PIX11 News.
‘It’s going to happen within minutes’

Discussing everything from travel to COVID-19 variants and face coverings, faculty members have answered questions from reporters and the public, clarified misinformation, and offered their evidence-based recommendations to the public.

Michael Urban, OTD, MBA, M.S., a senior lecturer and director of the University’s Doctorate of Occupational Therapy Program, offered his insight on vaccine distribution and side effects of the vaccine, in a recent interview with PIX11 News in New York.

“For some people, it depends on the compound used to make that vaccine,” he said. “There are different types. People may have a sensitivity or an actual reaction to that compound within the vaccine. You’ll know if you’re having an adverse reaction like if you’re allergic to shellfish. It’s going to happen within minutes.”