Diana W. Bianchi, M.D., FAAP, director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), and Capt. Amanda C. Cohn, M.D., FAAP, director of the Birth Defects and Infant Disorders Division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are finalists for the 2022 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals in the COVID-19 Response category.
Dr. Bianchi is nominated for her work in initiating clinical research to understand the medical implications of COVID-19 on underserved populations, including pregnant women, children and people with disabilities.
Dr. Cohn is nominated along with Anita Patel, Pharm.D., senior adviser of the CDC’s Pandemic Preparedness and Response, and David Fitter, M.D., an epidemiologist with the CDC. The three designed and implemented the plan to distribute hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccines to states, localities and pharmacies nationwide while providing health information to the public.
The Service to America Medals are awarded to highlight excellence in the federal workforce and inspire others to go into public service. Award recipients are chosen by a selection committee and will be announced this fall.
In addition, one finalist will receive the People’s Choice Award. Voting is open to anyone who is interested. Voters can read the finalists’ profiles at https://bit.ly/3FQWiCs and cast their votes through July 1. Voters can choose as many finalists as they want and submit votes once every 24 hours.
Dr. Bianchi sought to improve care of underserved populations
Dr. Bianchi helped initiate 15 large-scale studies to assess COVID-19 severity, the safety and efficacy of treatments, and the impact of vaccines and other risk-mitigation strategies in pregnant women, at-risk children, adolescents and people with disabilities.
A national study of 24,500 pregnant women suggested that severe COVID-19 is associated with higher risk of cesarean delivery, postpartum hemorrhage, preterm birth and other complications. The results showed the importance of monitoring pregnant women closely and treating them quickly when infected.
Other studies showed that antibodies from COVID-19 vaccinations pass from breastfeeding mothers to their infants; vaccines have only a temporary effect on menstruation and no impact on fertility; and COVID-19 transmission was lower in schools than in the community if masks were worn and handwashing and social distancing protocols were followed.
Additionally, Dr. Bianchi helped launch studies to improve the understanding of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children; improve the assessment and treatment of individuals with Down syndrome and other disabilities; and examine the medical and cognitive needs of children with long COVID.
“Children, people of reproductive age and people with intellectual disabilities are the populations that had not gotten enough attention during the initial pandemic response,” Dr. Bianchi said in a statement. “We’ve been able to speak up on behalf of all of these groups and generated evidence-based information that has improved their care.”
Read Dr. Bianchi’s profile at https://bit.ly/3lfdacF.
Dr. Cohn led efforts on vaccine recommendations, communication
Dr. Cohn led the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which helped determine how and when to recommend health care providers administer COVID-19 vaccines.
Additionally, Dr. Cohn worked to ensure that health departments had the latest information about the vaccine timeline, that the public could readily access the CDC’s vaccine information and that government agencies were prepared to address vaccine hesitancy.
Once the FDA started granting emergency use authorizations for vaccines, Dr. Cohn prepared the ACIP to review and make a recommendation for usage within hours instead of weeks, ensuring there was no delay in availability and without compromising safety.
“We didn’t do this alone,” Dr. Cohn said in a statement. “We worked with our state and local partners, along with thousands of other stakeholders to get COVID-19 vaccines to anyone and everyone who wanted them.”
Read the profile of Dr. Cohn and her colleagues at https://bit.ly/3yHKqB7.