NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Dr. James Hildreth has been named by President Joe Biden as a member of his COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force.

Dr. Hildreth is a renowned immunologist and academic administrator. He serves as the 12th president and chief executive officer of Meharry Medical College.

Meharry President Dr. James Hildreth receives Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

Dr. Hildreth released a statement, which reads:

I am honored to be chosen by President Biden as a member of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force.

We are facing one of the largest challenges in the history of our nation. COVID-19 has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans, and if adequate steps are not taken, this number will continue to grow. As we have seen, COVID-19 does not discriminate, it does not respect borders, and it does not behave according to our timelines.

The virus has had the largest impact on our communities of color, among Black and brown Americans with underlying health conditions. Without our immediate attention and a national, organized effort to fight this virus, we will be dealing with its impact for years to come.

As the President of a historically Black medical school that was founded to eradicate health disparities between majority and minority communities, this work is a focus for me and my institution. I am committed to working with our national leadership to develop cohesive plans that will address these silent killers – illnesses like COVID-19 that impact our most vulnerable populations at alarming rates.

We must address the pandemic together. I am confident that President Biden’s heightened focus on the pandemic will accelerate testing, treatment and vaccinations nationwide — proven strategies that will work to mitigate the virus and protect our people.

I look forward to working with my esteemed colleagues on the Task Force to restore health, wellbeing and stability to all of America.

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The twelve task force members represent a diversity of backgrounds and expertise, a range of racial and ethnic groups, and a number of important populations, including: children and youth; educators and students; health care providers, immigrants; individuals with disabilities; LGBTQ+ individuals; public health experts; rural communities; state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments; and unions, according to White House press release.

The White House said the task force is charged with issuing a range of recommendations to help inform the COVID-19 response and recovery. This includes recommendations on equitable allocation of COVID-19 resources and relief funds, effective outreach and communication to underserved and minority populations, and improving cultural proficiency within the Federal Government, according to a release. Additional recommendations include efforts to improve data collection and use, as well as a long-term plan to address data shortfalls regarding communities of color and other underserved populations. The task force’s work will conclude after issuing a final report to the COVID-19 Response Coordinator describing the drivers of observed COVID-19 inequities, the potential for ongoing disparities faced by COVID-19 survivors, and actions to ensure that future pandemic responses do not ignore or exacerbate health inequities.

Dr. Hildreth is known for his groundbreaking work with AIDS and HIV. He was the first African American to hold a full tenured professorship in basic research at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Dr. Hildreth has led Meharry’s efforts to ensure that disadvantaged communities have access to COVID-19 testing and vaccines. He graduated from Harvard University as a Rhodes Scholar, from Oxford University with a PhD in immunology, and obtained an MD from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.