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The Lessons of COVID-19

Lecture Center for Global Humanities Lecture/Seminar Series

W. Ian Lipkin

W. Ian Lipkin, MD

The current coronavirus pandemic has exposed long-standing underlying global issues, notably climate change, food security, and the viral dissemination of misinformation. Climate change and temperature fluctuations can displace animals as well as insects, causing them to adapt for survival. This adaptation can be biological, migratory, or both and begins a chain reaction of animals and/or insects interacting with each other as well as humans in new situations. Such interactions can have an increase in food security risk (such as infections in tilapia and salmon populations) and an increase in the consumption of bushmeat (typically from wet markets), both of which expose humans to new diseases like COVID-19. As living things grow closer together on the planet, our increased interconnectedness via the Internet also promotes an environment for things to “go viral." This allows for faster communication of information, but this can cause significant damage if a false statement is released and is subject to widespread sharing. While this speed of information allowed for scientists globally to begin working on treatments earlier than ever before, misinformation can cause irreparable damage to global public health (such as unfounded statements that 5G wireless networks are responsible for the current pandemic). Now is the time to examine the global picture and learn from our experiences with COVID-19.


W. Ian Lipkin, MD holds a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY and a medical degree from Rush Medical College in Chicago. He is the Director of the Center for Solutions for myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), the Director of the Center for Research in Diagnostics and Discovery, and the Director of the Center of Infection and Immunity with the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. Dr. Lipkin is internationally recognized for his contributions to global public health through the innovative methods he developed for infectious disease diagnosis, surveillance, and discovery. Most notably, he had the first use of subtractive cloning in microbial discovery, the first use of next-generation sequencing for investigating outbreaks, and developed gene capture technologies, including VirCapSeq-VERT and BacCapSeq as well as multiplexed serological assays to detect vector-borne diseases. These advances have been critical in replacing culture-dependent methods of global health management by creating new criteria for disease causation and de-linking spurious associations between putative agents and diseases. Such examples include refuting the MMR vaccine having a role in autism and XMRV in ME/CFS. Lipkin has been at the forefront in responding to many of the world’s recent outbreaks, including the West Nile Virus in New York City (1999), SARS in China (2003), MERS in Saudi Arabia (2012-16), Zika in the US (2016), encephalitis in India (2017), and COVID-19 (2020). He promotes public health awareness via print and broadcast media and also served as the scientific advisor for Soderberg’s film Contagion. Some of his most prestigious honors include Pew Scholar (Biomedical Sciences), Walter Reed Distinguished Lecturer, the Drexel Prize in Translational Medicine, the Mendel Medal (Villanova University), and the International Science and Technology Cooperation Award of the Peoples Republic of China. He is the recipient of an award of appreciation given by the Chinese government in the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China for his service to the country during the SARS epidemic along with the subsequent scientific support he has given since.


Lessonds of Covid-19 Event Poster
5:00 PM


Free and open to the public