President-elect Joe Biden has made the raging COVID-19 pandemic a priority for his incoming administration, naming a list of prominent scientists, researchers, scholars and government health leaders to a new coronavirus taskforce. Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, an infectious disease expert and president of the historically Black Meharry Medical College, may also play a role in shaping the nation’s coronavirus response in the new administration.
The Biden-Harris transition team invited Hildreth to submit his resume for consideration. Hildreth, in a Tennessean interview, said last week he would accept a role if offered.
“If I’m asked to assist in any way to get us through this crisis we are in, of course, I am going to do just that,” said Hildreth, who has led Meharry since 2015. He is already playing a role in the U.S. government’s COVID-19 response. In October, he was appointed to the Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, which evaluates coronavirus vaccine candidates.
Hildreth said his scientific and research credentials aren’t the only assets that make him sought-after for the committee’s work.
“There are not many African American scientists who have gone into the field that I’ve chosen,” Hildreth told the Nashville Post. “The point is to make sure that the interest of the people that we care about are best served. I sort of feel obligated to do this because, oftentimes, I’m the only African American that will be sitting at a table. I think it’s just important that I do this.”
In Nashville, Hildreth has been a vocal and high-profile member of the city’s coronavirus taskforce, advising the mayor and shaping policy. With his Meharry students, Hildreth brought a free, drive-up COVID-19 testing site to the campus, located in the Black neighborhood. Meharry is one of eight historically Black colleges and universities that have received millions of dollars in funding to combat the coronavirus.