CRPC Caribbean Community COVID Vaccine Webinar

CRPC Caribbean Community COVID Vaccine Webinar

06 February 2021

CRPC Caribbean Community COVID Vaccine Webinar

Continue to wear a mask, stay safe and be ready for the vaccine: What the Caribbean Community should know”

As the public health approach to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic moves into the comprehensive vaccination program, community engagement and trust building is an imperative. The Caribbean community, like many communities of color, has suffered significant burden economically, socially, with morbidity and deaths because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is an over-riding sense of mistrust about COVID-19 vaccines and the service systems charged with dissemination – systems that have historically marginalized communities of color. Caribbean community members also grappled with prevailing misinformation about the vaccines and the roll-out process. Providing trusted information, sharing realistic guidance, and meaningfully engaging Caribbean community members to facilitate – accessibility, appropriate, affordable, available, and acceptable health, and social services – the process of COVID-19 vaccination program will be important, in fact vital.

The CRPC’s virtual (using Zoom) Caribbean Community COVID Vaccine Webinarwhich was held on Saturday, February 6, 2021, at 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm, shed light on the vaccines’ efficacy, and provided information to help members of the Caribbean community in the Diaspora and in the Caribbean overcome doubts about whether they should take the vaccine when available to them. The overall goal of the Webinar was to engage members of the Caribbean Community in dialogue, educational opportunities and information sharing about the health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, strategies for overall well-being and to facilitate practical understanding about the vaccine efficacy and process, as well as to promote accessibility.

Co-Moderators: Ambassador Curtis A. Ward & Karen B. Francis, PhD

Participating Healthcare and Research Professionals: Basil S. Morgan, MD; Gary A. Rule, MD, MPH; Cindy Duke, MD, PhD; Sam Christian, MD; Cheryl L. Holder, MD; Swinburne Augustine, PhD; and John Williams, MD.

The Webinar:

  • Addressed the issues of mistrust and misinformation that prevailed within the Caribbean community here in the United States and in the broader Caribbean region related to COVID-19 vaccines, health and public health approaches;
  • Provided relevant, science-based information from front-line healthcare professionals, researchers, and trusted leaders in the Caribbean community to engender trust about the efficacy of the vaccine, and to provide guidance on health care accessibility, particularly to the COVID-19 vaccine; and
  • Provided opportunity to effectively engage members of the Caribbean community in understanding the process for vaccines through culturally responsive health practices and information sharing.

The Webinar was presented as a virtual informational and discussion session with health care providers/practitioners, civic and political leaders, cultural brokers, and academicians with people of Caribbean heritage serving as panelists and Caribbean community leaders as participants. The Webinar discussed implications for the Caribbean community and addressed issues such as, why is this important, and “Is the vaccine safe, should we take it”?

The Webinar focused on building trust and support in the Caribbean community to engage in the vaccination process, provided information about access points and timing for locally based vaccination programs, discussed what to do and what to expect when getting vaccinated, how-to follow-up after vaccination, and how to leverage overall community networks to promote vaccinations in the Caribbean community.

Presentations were made by leading frontline Caribbean Healthcare and Scientific Research Professionals who shared their respective professional experiences with vaccines, in particular the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine, treating of patients infected with COVID-19, and why members of the Caribbean communities should be vaccinated. Participating Professionals shared their perspectives on the efficacy of the vaccines and offered health reasons why members of the Caribbean community should be vaccinated.

Participating Community Leaders had an opportunity to raise concerns they may have detected within their areas of operation. Community Leaders left this Webinar fully informed on the efficacy of the COVID vaccines and why members of the Caribbean diaspora and Caribbean people in the region should not hesitate to be vaccinated.

Dissemination of Webinar:

The Webinar session which was livestreamed on CaribNation TV YouTube channel was recorded and is available to the public on CaribNation TV channel (click to access video directly). The webinar was also carried live on other social media platforms.

The Panelists & Moderators – Photos and short Bios:

Dr. Basil S. Morgan, MD, is currently Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins University and is in private practice. He previously served as past director of ophthalmologic services at The Johns Hopkins Health Plan in Baltimore.

He is a Past President of Maryland Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons, and Past Chair of the Committee of Rules and Regulations for the National Medical Association.  Over the years, he has served in several other leadership capacities at the state and national level: Legislative Chairman, Maryland Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons; Delegate to the Medical and Chirurgical Society of Maryland; past president of Monumental City Medical Society, Baltimore, Maryland; Fellow of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and past Councilor of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. He is a former board member of the Enterprise Loan Foundation and former member of the Board of Trustees for the Maryland Society for the Prevention of Blindness.

He has been a visiting lecturer at several universities in the U.S., including Howard and Einstein University, and lectures both nationally and internationally in ophthalmology.  He has multiple scientific publications in peer review journals and his research interests focus on sickle cell disease, and gene isolation of dominantly inherited retinal dystrophy. Dr. Morgan actively participates in volunteer missions overseas, donating his services in the Caribbean and Africa.  He has undertaken several medical missions to Jamaica, Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya. He is currently the Co-Host of the monthly one-hour radio show, “Health Talk” on WEAA FM 88.9 with NPR producer Claudette Lindsey.

He has been the recipient of numerous awards over the years, including: the 2018 Hall of Fame Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology Secretariat for State Affairs; the President’s award from the Maryland Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons; an award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, for service to the Council of the Academy; the Marcus Garvey Award from the Jamaican Association of Maryland for his contribution to the Association and to the Jamaican and Caribbean community in Baltimore; and the American Academy of Ophthalmology Senior Achievement award.

Dr. Basil Morgan attended SUNY-Albany, where he earned a BSc with honors. He subsequently earned his M.D. degree from Johns Hopkins University, graduating in the upper third of his class and he interned in general surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was a resident  in Ophthalmology and a fellow in Retina and Vitreous surgery at The University of Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary. He is board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology and he is a member of the American Society of Retina Specialists.

Dr. Gary A. Rhule, MD, MPH, is an Internal Medicine physician and public health practitioner. As a former Director of Health and Human Services in Hartford, Connecticut, he was responsible for the management and operation of the Public Health Department, a role that included implementing federal and state public health policies and programs; developing plans, policies, and programs to address the City’s public health and human service needs. He is also an author, and mental health advocate. He has a broad perspective in health care gained by personal, professional, and volunteer medical missions in the Caribbean and Africa.

He is active in the community and has served on the board of several non-profit organizations including the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Connecticut Chapter; the Jacob L. and Lewis Fox Foundation; the West Indian Foundation; and the West Indian Social Club of Hartford.

He has appeared on local and international television speaking on several health care topics, including mental health parity, medical tourism, healthcare trade and investments, and innovations in healthcare.

Dr. Cindy Duke, MD, PhD, is a highly accomplished physician, entrepreneur, blogger, content creator and influencer who writes about issues as they relate to life, health and business for women. Dr. Duke’s keen eye towards issues affecting those within the Goal Health Diaspora. She is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Medicine and a research award-winning virologist and published author of numerous scientific papers, reviews, and textbook chapters. Dr. Cindy Duke is also a regular writer on Medium, including the Startup. Her articles and social media posts are relatable, easy to read and notable for topics about health, wellness, business and life. When one reads her blog, it is evident that Dr. Cindy Duke cares and that her goal is to help every individual achieve their best outcomes, while using the resources at their disposal.

An M.D. Ph.D. trained Physician Scientist, Dr. Cindy Duke has trained at some of the top medical institutions in the United States, including Johns Hopkins Hospital and Yale School of Medicine. She is Board Certified in Gynecology and Obstetrics and Fellowship Trained in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (REI). In her day job, Dr. Cindy Duke is the Founding Physician, Medical and Laboratory Director of the Nevada Fertility Institute — a full-service Fertility Clinic and surgical facility serving an international clientele. Dr. Cindy is also a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Medicine, where she plays a role in Resident and Medical Student Education. Her current Research efforts have focused on the intersection of healthcare delivery with technology and how that can be used to close gaps in accessing medical care.

Dr. Sam Christian, MD is a medical practitioner and organizer of the Caribbean Virus Defense, 1200 strong Facebook blog dedicated to promoting best practices and combating misinformation concerning Covid-19. A graduate of Howard University, Dr. Christian served as Battalion Surgeon in the US Army Reserves and is now Medical Director of Urgent Care Dominica.


Dr. Cheryl L. Holder, Fellow in the American College of Physicians, has dedicated her medical career to serving underserved populations. After her undergraduate education at Princeton University, she completed The George Washington University School of Medicine and Internal Medicine training at Harlem Hospital.  In 1987, she moved to Miami- Dade County as a National Health Service Corp Scholar to work with the underserved communities.

Dr. Holder served as Medical Director of Jackson Health System’s North Dade Health Center from 1990 to 2009. As Medical Director, she developed an HIV care and treatment program with funding through the Ryan White Care Act., participated in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institute of Health advisory and programmatic review panels for HIV treatment and vaccine research and for community based participatory research.

In September 2009, she joined Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine as faculty. She focuses on teaching the impact of social determinants of health-on-health outcomes, addressing diversity in health professions through pipeline programs, HIV prevention and health impact of climate change.  Dr. Holder currently serves as the Interim, Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, Inclusivity and Community Initiatives.

Her community involvement includes serving as President of the Florida State Medical Association –the state affiliate of the National Medical Association in which Dr. Holder works with nine local Florida Medical Societies to address health disparities and increase the viability of African American physicians.  She also Co-Chair of Florida Clinicians for Climate Action to increase climate literacy and awareness of health impact of climate change on health, especially for vulnerable populations. In 2016, she received the FIU Medallion Cal Kovens Distinguished Community Service Award and in 2017, the Faculty Convocation Award in Service and 2019 Tow Humanism in Medicine Award. Most recently, she was a featured TEDMED2020 and TED Talk speaker, “Clinicians for Climate Action”.

Dr. Swinburne Augustine, PhD: Dominican-born Dr. Augustine is a Research Microbiologist and Immunologist. He holds a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences with a focus in Microbiology and Immunology from Meharry Medical College – one of the oldest black medical schools in the United States of America. For over a decade, Dr. Augustine has been developing, applying and publishing rapid, cost-effective saliva antibody tests to determine human exposure to multiple bad bugs such as hepatitis A virus, noroviruses- the bugs that shuts down cruise ships, and many others at the United States Environmental Protection Agency. His many awards include the 2020 Institute of Caribbean Studies Caribbean American Heritage Award for Outstanding Contributions to Public Health and the USEPA’s National Exposure Research Laboratory Exposure Science Excellence Award. He is a member of the American Association of Immunologists, the American Society for Microbiology, and the International Society for Global Health.

[Dr. Augustine kindly volunteered his time and expertise to share his knowledge about the development and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine in his personal capacity and not as a representative of the US Federal Government or the USEPA.]

Dr. John Williams is a medical practitioner in the State of Florida. (No photo and additional profile available)

Karen B. Francis, PhD is a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practitioner and a nationally recognized cultural competence expert. Dr. Francis leads organizational management activities focused on implementation of diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy to support overall growth, development, realized outcomes and sustainability.  She has more than 30 years of experience managing, planning, and delivering training and technical assistance (TTA) at national, state, and local levels across multiple human service systems.  She has authored and co-authored several publications focused on cultural and linguistic competence and its practical application for service delivery.  A medical sociologist by training, Dr. Francis has grounded her work in the principles of cultural competence and a commitment to address disparities across social, health, juvenile justice, and educational service systems.

Dr. Francis has worked with multiple health departments in the US, to address youth violence prevention, and guided the process for the development of strategic planning for culturally and linguistically competent behavioral health services.  Additionally, she has worked with multiple school districts to disaggregate data about students who have been involved in the school to prison pipeline, illustrating bias by race, gender, and disabilities.  Dr. Francis is active in her community as evidenced by her previous service on the Montgomery County, Maryland’s Commission on Juvenile Justice.  As a Commissioner on the Maryland Governor’s Commission on Caribbean Affairs where she led initiatives to promote health literacy and access to health and behavioral health services.  She is currently an active member of the Caribbean American Advisory Group, Montgomery County Maryland. Dr. Francis is a member of the Board of the Caribbean Research & Policy Center.

Ambassador Curtis A. Ward, Esq. (BA, JD, LLM) is a former Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations with Special Responsibility for Security Council Affairs (1999-2002) serving on the UN Security Council for two years. He served three years as Expert Adviser to the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee. He is an Attorney-at-Law and International Consultant with extensive knowledge and experience in national and international legal and policy frameworks for effective implementation of United Nations (UN) and other international anti-terrorism mandates; in-depth knowledge of the legal and administrative requirements to effectively implement and enforce anti-money laundering and countering financing of terrorism (AML/CFT); extensive knowledge of the legal and regulatory requirements for effective implementation and enforcement of United Nations multilateral and US-imposed unilateral sanctions; and the imperatives for Rule of Law and governance.

Ambassador Ward is Chairman of the Caribbean Research & Policy Center; he is Founder and Editor of The Ward Post, an online publication providing analysis on geopolitical and security issues, and on matters of interest to the Caribbean diaspora and the Caribbean region; and his Podcast – Real Talk with Ambassador Curtis Ward. He has served in leadership roles in several Jamaican and Caribbean organizations in the United States. He was the first and only Chair of the Maryland Governor’s Commission on Caribbean Affairs and was the first Chair of Montgomery County (MD) Executive Caribbean American Advisory Group.

For information