On January 21, 2021, the Global Teaching Project hosted a virtual event with Dr. Edward Ryan, Professor at Harvard Medical School and Director of Global Infectious Diseases at Harvard’s Massachusetts General Hospital. Well over 100 participants joined the Zoom session, and GTP high school students from rural Mississippi, as always, asked excellent questions. A recording of our program is here.
Demeria Moore, a student at McAdams High School in Attala County, introduced Dr. Ryan, who addressed the latest developments on COVID-19, including vaccinations, continuing health protocols, and the path to a return to normalcy. In addition, Dr. Ryan emphasized the importance of STEM education and offered advice to students seeking to study STEM further or to enter health care or other STEM careers.
Dr. Ryan’s presentation included slides, data, and graphics he used to explain the nature of the coronavirus, how it spreads, how vaccines work, and practices to mitigate the risk of infection. Among his key points:
- Masks work, and should be worn. Wearing a mask “makes it much less likely that you are going to get [COVID-19], and if you get it you probably are going to get a milder case.”
- Socially distance and clean your hands regularly. Staying six feet away from others, wearing a mask, and cleaning your hands regularly “has been clearly shown to decrease the likelihood of transmission.”
- Vaccines are highly safe and effective. “The vaccines look really safe by all the data we have….In large studies involving now over hundreds of thousands of individuals for the vaccines, there were no safety issues” for vaccinated persons compared to a control group that was given sugar placebos. “I personally view this as a very safe vaccine, and I have already had two dosages because I work every day with COVID patients…At my hospital, we are vaccinating over 1,000 people a day, and we have had no safety issues with the vaccines so far.”
- STEM education is essential: STEM education “is a way to understand life, it is a way to understand how the world functions, and it’s also, quite importantly, a way to think….It gives you a skill set for everything.”
Dr. Ryan concluded his remarks by sharing how rewarding it is to develop skills that may be used to help others, and encouraging our students to pursue educational and career paths that gave them that opportunity.
We are grateful to Dr. Ryan, and proud of our students for working hard and taking on the challenge of rigorous courses to prepare them to also help others.