6/ 23 COVID-19 and Black Communities Workshop

Tune in for a historic public workshop featuring world renowned experts in Science, Engineering and Medicine to examine the impact of COVID-19 on the Black Community. The workshop will examine various elements of COVID-19 that increases case numbers in Black communities and will also focus on addressing current and future challenges.  Provided by National Academies Roundtable, the united front strives to provide the building blocks necessary to form a resilient community.

Title: COVID-19 and Black Communities: Understanding the Landscape, Developing Ideas to Address the Challenges, and Building a Community of Action that includes Black Physicians, Black Engineers, and Black Scientists

When: June 23rd from 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM EDT

How to join the Zoom workshop: Click here to register


9:30 AM EST   Opening Remarks, Introductions, and Workshop Goals

Victor Dzau, M.D.

President, National Academy of Medicine

Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

Chair of the Roundtable

Mark Alexander, Ph.D. Camara P. Jones, M.D., M.P.H. Cora Marrett, Ph.D.

Co-Chairs of the COVID-19 Action Group


Moderator: Hannah Valantine, M.D. Deputy Director, National Institutes of Health

10:00 AM    

Garry Gibbons, M.D., Director, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health

Richard E. Besser, M.D., President and Chief Executive Officer, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Garth Graham, M.D., MPH, President, Aetna Foundation

11:00 AM        Discussion with Roundtable Members


Moderator: Mark. Alexander, M.D., Treasurer, 100 Black Men of America

11:30 AM

Session Objective:

  • To discuss why Black people are more likely to be infected with SARS-CoV-2, and why once infected, Black people are more likely to die from COVID-19.

Cyde Yancy, M.D., Professor of Cardiology, Northwestern University School of Medicine Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D., University Professor, University of Connecticut

Camara P. Jones, M.D., M.P.H., Senior Fellow, Morehouse School of Medicine

12:30 PM        Discussion with Roundtable Members

1:00 PM – 1:30 PM     Break for Lunch


Moderator: Louis Sullivan, M.D., Former Secretary, Health and Human Services, President, The Sullivan Alliance

1:30 PM

Session Objectives:

  • To understand the landscape of work being performed regarding COVID 19 at the National Academies
  • To explore synergies between the Roundtable on Black Men and Black Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine and other National Academy Initiatives
  • Panel Group Presentations and Panel Discussion

Harvey Fineberg, M.D. Chair,  Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious

Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats


Cora Marrett, Ph.D. Advisory Committee Member,

Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

Marsha McNutt, Ph.D., President, National Academy of Sciences

2:30 PM                      Discussion with Roundtable Members


Moderator: Cedric Bright, M.D., Associate Dean, East Carolina University Medical School

3:00 PM

Session Objectives:

  • To explore ongoing and new ideas for addressing COVID-19 in the Black Community
  • To examine the role of Black Doctors, Scientists and Engineers in partnering with other in the Black Community to generate community response and community resilience.

Scot Esdaile, National Board Member, NAACP

Martha A. Dawson, DNP, RN, FACHE, President, National Black Nurses Association Gilda Barabino, Ph.D., President,  Olin College

Valerie Montgomery-Rice, M.D., President, Morehouse School of Medicine

4:00 PM          Discussion with Roundtable Members

4:30 PM          Wrap-up and Next Steps by Workshop Co-chairs

5:00 PM         Workshop Adjourned

Dr. Laurencin Invited as a Panelist for the Virtual African American Cultural Center Town Hall Meeting

AACC town hall meeting

On the evening of June 4th, Dr. Laurencin participated in the UConn African American Cultural Center virtual town hall meeting as a panelist on the topic of “Racism and the COVID-19 Pandemic in the African American Community”. Amongst Dr. Laurencin were nine other panelists with a wide array of backgrounds who provided various perspectives on the discussion.

The UConn African American Cultural Center (AACC) was established in 1968 to support African Americans in all aspects of campus life. The AACC serves as a liaison to academic support departments and assists students in navigating the many resources of the University community such as residential life, the dean of student’s office, financial aid, and other student affairs departments.

Dr. Laurencin Sponsors and Presents at a CT Racial Profiling Prohibition Project Community Event

On Friday, June 5th Dr. Laurencin sponsored and participated in a webinar put on by the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project titled “Truth and Reconciliation- A Conversation about Race and Policing”. For years, the killing of unarmed Black people has sparked calls for reform. The death of George Floyd by a white police officer has laid bare an open wound in our nation and inflicted additional trauma on people of color plagued by a history of institutionalized police violence and systemic racism. The protests erupting across the country demonstrate the urgency in which these issues still need to be addressed. The webinar enabled an open and honest discussion about policing and race relations in the state. Panelists discussed how to reconcile the past and explore ways to heal the community.

Dr. Laurencin serves on the Racial Profiling Prohibition Project Advisory Board. The advisory board was established (in 2012) for the purpose of advising the Office of Policy and Management with respect to the adoption and standardized methods and guidelines pursuant to Connecticut General Statute 54-1m. The advisory meets on a monthly basis and is open to the public.


Watch the forum here

Dr. Laurencin Selected as the Recipient of the James E. Bailey Award in Biological Engineering of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers

Dr. Laurencin has been selected to receive the 2020 James E. Bailey award in Biological Engineering. The award is sponsored by the Society of Biological Engineering, and is presented to an individual who is a pioneer, a mentor, an innovator, an integrator of biology and engineering, a teacher, and whose achievements have provided a major impact to the field of biological engineering.

Dr. Laurencin will receive the award during the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ annual meeting in San Francisco, California. In addition to receiving the prestigious award, Dr. Laurencin will provide the James E. Bailey lecture titled Regenerative Engineering: The Present and Future of Tissue Regeneration.

Dr. Laurencin is the Founder of the Field of Regenerative Engineering. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Regenerative Engineering and Translational Medicine, and is the Founder and President of the Regenerative Engineering Society. Dr. Laurencin was named One of the 100 Engineers of the Modern Era by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. He won the Percy Julian Medal, the highest award of the National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers.

Dr. Laurencin has been honored by the White House on three occasions. He received the Presidential Faculty Fellow Award from President Bill Clinton, the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Math and Engineering Mentoring from President Barack Obama, and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, America’s highest honor for technological achievement.

Dr. Laurencin is an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine. He is the first to receive both the oldest/highest award from the National Academy of Engineering (the Simon Ramo Founder’s Award) and the oldest/highest award from the National Academy of Medicine (the Walsh McDermott Medal).

Dr. Laurencin is a designated University Professor at the University of Connecticut. He earned his B.S.E. in Chemical Engineering from Princeton University, his Ph.D. in Biochemical Engineering/Biotechnology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his M.D., Magna Cum Laude, from the Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Chia-Ling Kuo Discovers a Dementia Linked Gene That Could Increase the Risk of Developing Severe COVID-19


We are proud to announce that Chia-Ling Kuo, Ph.D., a Biostatistician at the Connecticut Convergence Institute has made almost every major headline due to her recent paper published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences. Her latest publication shows that there is a gene linked to dementia which increases the risk of developing severe symptoms of COVID-19.

Read more about Dr. Kuo’s discoveries on any of the following:




UConn Today




The Daily Beast

The Sun




On behalf of the Connecticut Convergence Institute we congratulate Dr. Kuo on her major achievement!

Dr. Laurencin Elected as a Fellow of the International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering

Dr. Laurencin has recently been nominated and elected to become a Fellow of the International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering (IAMBE). IAMBE fellowship represents individuals with outstanding contributions to and leadership in the field of medical and biological engineering. This elite group currently consists of approximately 150 leading scientists and researchers all over the world. Dr. Laurencin joins twenty-seven other individuals being elected into the class of 2020 AIMBE Fellows.

The virtual induction ceremony will take place on September 18th during the Annual Event of IAMBE, held in conjunction with the Carnegie Mellon Forum on Biomedical Engineering in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Laurencin Presents at the Virtual Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair 2020


On Monday May 18th, Dr. Laurencin virtually attended and presented at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair 2020. Dr. Laurencin was invited to be a part of the Excellence in Science and Technology panel. He discussed the importance of engaging both young people and non-scientists equally in the scientific enterprise, as well as shared some inspirational advice. Dr. Laurencin encouraged attendees with guidance such as “Don’t make a decision based upon money. It should be based upon doing the right thing. If you do good things, good things happen.”

The highly anticipated annual event is a broad networking and educational opportunity for folks in the STEM community. The event celebrates achievements in science and engineering and is sponsored by The Society for Science & the Public and Regeneron. The Society for Science & the Public is a nonprofit dedicated to enhancing scientific literacy, STEM education and scientific research.

Virtual Health Café a Success

Heath Cafe Screenshot


Yesterday The Connecticut Convergence Institute hosted the first virtual Health Café! As a part of UConn Health, we value the seriousness of social distancing during this trying time, but also understand the importance of continuing public health education. Thus, we plan to continue the Health Café Series in a virtual format for the near future.

Moderated by Dr. Kevin Lo, Assistant Director of the CT Convergence Institute, the episode featured Dr. Cato Laurencin, CEO of the CT Convergence Institute joined by special guests Senator Douglas McCrory, and Dr. Kevin Dieckhaus, Chief of Infectious Diseases at UConn Health. Dr. Laurencin and Senator McCrory discussed the implications of COVID-19 on the Black community, while Dr. Dieckhaus took a deeper dive into the medical aspect of the virus. In true Health Café style, the webinar concluded with Q&A segment complete with questions submitted from local community members.

On behalf of the Institute, we thank you all for your continued support, and stay tuned for updates regarding future virtual Health Cafes.

Dr. Laurencin and Dr. McClinton Handshake Alternative to Protect Public Health Featured in the Journal Science

FARMINGTON – Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D. and Aneesah McClinton, M.D., doctors at UConn Health have demonstrated a new alternative to the handshake, in an effort to reduce human contact and protect public health. In the midst of a global pandemic, the goal is to establish preventative measures to diminish the spread of COVID-19.  The recent crisis has triggered reshaping behaviors around greeting etiquette, as hand-to-hand contact is strongly discouraged. A single handshake can transfer 124 million bacteria, twice as many pathogens than a high five. The Laurencin-McClinton Greeting (LMG) has already had substantial impact, appearing in the Editor’s Blog of the Journal Science.  The LMG is the innovation of Dr. Cato T. Laurencin, CEO of The Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering at UConn Health. Laurencin predicted the demand for an adapted greeting due to the constantly evolving COVID-19 culture.

“The new greeting is timely as social distancing restrictions are gradually lifted throughout the country. We introduce a new greeting that avoids hand contact altogether.” says Laurencin. While other forms of greetings are being explored during these unprecedented times, the most popular elbow bump is considered less than ideal as it is a common practice to sneeze and cough into the elbow region, creating a breeding ground for germs.

A Two-Part Greeting

Part 1 does not require contact and can be performed to acknowledge another individual at a reasonable distance away, an ideal gesture in a time of social distancing. An individual places their closed fist to their chest just overlying the heart to convey greeting to another. The closed fist is a power symbol and the placement over the heart conveys solidarity and demonstrates resolve to endure in this unprecedented crisis.

LMG Part 1
Dr. Cato T. Laurencin

Part 2 may be performed when contact amongst two parties is permitted. In this scenario, after an individual has placed their fist to their chest, they may then extend their forearm outward at a 45-degree angle signifying the initiation of the second part of the greeting. The reciprocating party may position their arm alongside the initiator’s arm. Together, they briefly tap the dorsal aspect of their mid-forearms forming a cross-like configuration. The dorsal surface of the mid-forearm represents a safe zone just between the hands and elbows.

LMG Part 2
Dr. Cato T. Laurencin and Dr. Aneesah McClinton
LMG Part 2 close up
Dr. Cato T. Laurencin and Dr. Aneesah McClinton

To learn more about the Laurencin-McClinton Greeting, view the newly published piece featured in the Editor’s Blog of the Journal Science.

5/13/20 Virtual Health Cafe on COVID-19 and the Black Community

The CT Convergence Institute signature Health Café Series is going virtual! As a part of UConn Health, we value the seriousness of social distancing during this trying time, but also understand the importance of continuing public health education. Thus, we plan to continue the Health Café Series in a virtual format for the near future.

The episode will feature Dr. Cato Laurencin, CEO of the CT Convergence Institute joined by special guests Senator Douglas McCrory, and Dr. Kevin Dieckhaus, Chief of Infectious Diseases at UConn Health.

Dr. Laurencin has recently been featured on numerous media outlets due to his groundbreaking research on COVID-19 and the Black community.

Senator McCrory is a member of the Black & Puerto Rican Caucus and is committed to strengthening neighborhoods through education, development and civic engagement.

Dr. Dieckhaus has been instrumental in developing COVID-19 surge capacity for Uconn Health and has helped build and organize numerous policies and practices for both patient care and health care worker safety.

All panelists will be available for a Q&A segment at the end of the program.

When: May 13th from 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Episode Title: Health Café on COVID-19 and the Black Community

Speakers: Dr. Cato T. Laurencin of UConn Health, CT Senator Douglas McCrory & Dr. Kevin Dieckhaus of UConn Health

How to join the webinar: https://uconnhealth.webex.com/uconnhealth/onstage/g.php?MTID=ea54238381c6cfc8b68f4cea5dd7b5f22

For questions: email cci@uchc.edu

This event is free and open to the public. No prior registration necessary.

We hope you are able to join us for this seminar featuring some of our community’s leading healthcare heroes.