NATIONAL – On Tues., March 24, 2020, a Doctor and two Scientists, who grew up in our community, hosted a live Zoom video conference to at least 140 participants to discuss the current COVID-19 pandemic from their perspective.

Scientist Dr. Marcus Lambert invited Dr. Noor Jihan Abdul-Haqq and Scientist Wanda Sharif-Rodriguez to discuss this issue. 

Here’s the background on the panelists. 

Dr. Marcus Lambert is a scientist and educator at Weill Cornell Medicine. He serves as Assistant Dean in the Graduate School and Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine.

Trained in both biomedical and social science research methodology, his research efforts focus on educational and health equity interventions that improve access, equity and diversity in science and medicine. He currently directs a summer research program for undergraduate students and is a member of the Cornell Center for Health Equity.

Dr. Lambert is a graduate of W. D. Mohammed High School in Atlanta, Ga. and recipient of the Science & Technology Award by the Mohammed Schools of Atlanta. He has also received the Generation NEXT Leadership Award at the 2016 Muslim Journal’s A Time To Be Grateful, the Health and Health Disparities Award of Excellence from Howard University, and has been honored by the U.S. State Department as a “Generation Changer”, part of an international network of visionary young leaders. 

Dr. Lambert received his Ph.D. in biomedical science from New York University (NYU) School of Medicine and his bachelor’s degree in biology from Howard University. He also holds a Master’s degree in Clinical Epidemiology and Health Services Research from Weill Cornell Graduate School. Dr. Lambert resides in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and four children.

Dr. Noor Jihan Abdul-Haqq is a board-certified pediatrician from Oklahoma City, OK. In 2004, she graduated Magna Cum Laude from Spelman College in Atlanta, GA with a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry. Her medical school and residency training were completed through Morehouse School of Medicine where she was active with various medical organizations. 

She has done medical work in Barbados, Dominican Republic and Mexico.  Her awards include the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine award, Practitioner of Excellence Award from Sisters United Organization for her professional development and community service and the Journal Record’s Achievers under 40 award.  Dr. Abdul-Haqq has presented numerous times on KVSP 92.1 FM The Open Mic Show as well as for local health fairs and initiatives. 

Dr. Abdul-Haqq opened her current practice Peace of Mind Pediatrics in Sept of 2015 to serve the community that she grew up in. Insha’Allah she will open the Clara Community Health Center in OKC in the spring of 2020 which will be a free clinic for those unable to qualify for insurance.  She and her husband are the proud parents to 3 wonderful children. She is an active member of Masjid Mu’min in OKC. 

Wanda Sharif-Rodriguez is from Brooklyn, NY and now resides in Orange, NJ.

Wanda mentored under the first Black-owned Veterinary office in Brooklyn under Dr. Vibert Parris DVM at Crown Heights Animal Clinic.  

Wanda studied Pre-Veterinary Medicine /Animal Science at Tuskegee University and graduated with a Masters in Molecular Biology from Lehigh University. 

Wanda pursued a career in preclinical models of animal research at various pharmaceutical companies. 

Today, Wanda is a Senior Research Associate Scientist at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in the area of cardiovascular disease research where she is involved in novel genetic and biological approaches to disease therapy.  

Wanda is also the owner of a small dog grooming business. 

Here is an excerpt from their panel discussion.

Dr. Marcus Lambert started the call, saying, “This is a Real… Legit… Disease… transmitted by a virus known as Coronavirus. And the disease that you can get from the Coronavirus is COVID-19 (COronaVIrus Disease discovered in 2019).

What is a virus?

A virus is an infectious living organism that needs another organism/body to survive. That body can be plant, animal or person. When it gets into an animal or human, that’s when it incorporates its viral army and replicates and sustains itself throughout this organism. This is what this Coronavirus is doing.

In fact, we’ve heard about other viruses, like the common cold or the flu, and then even more severe illnesses such as HIV AIDS or smallpox or Ebola. 

Coronaviruses have existed for many many years and have existed in various species of humans and animals. This Novel or New COVID-19 is a never before seen mutation. Coronavirus is also a protein and this COVID-19 recognizes and interacts with at least 300 types of human proteins. This is how it gains entry into our body and able to replicate in our cells. In order for it to stay alive and be relevant, most organisms protect themselves by natural selection. 

Since COVID-19 is new, our bodies have not developed an immunity to it. So it could be sitting in your nose for 2 – 5 days and during that time you’re touching your nose, coughing, drinking after someone and thereby spreading the virus. What’s also new about COVID-19 is that the contagious rate and the death rate is quicker than the common flu. 

Basically the way our body’s immune system works is that when we are exposed to something new, then your body builds up like a memory. So when it gets exposed when again it comes out fighting immediately. 

People as carriers can be asymptomatic, which means a person who shows no symptoms, but they have the virus which is producing and reproducing quickly replicating. And we don’t necessarily know but that’s because our immune system is just starting to fight the virus. In the meantime, we can transmit that virus to others. 

Vaccines 

Science is not rushed as getting FDA approval can take years. There are, however, about 70 different FDA approved drugs on the market that targets some of these protein. There are also studies happening right now that are looking at existing vaccines for malaria, HIV, and Ebola that may help to fight COVID-19. There are also companies that are working on therapies, not the virus, but some of the underlying conditions like respiratory.  This virus attacks the lungs, so the therapies may help to reduce the condition so the body can mend itself and prevent death.  

Recommendations?

  • Boosting the Immune system. You can’t take any anti-biotics to fight Coronavirus, so the immune system is a key part of being able to fight off any viruses. To strengthen our immune systems in general, stay away from sugar. When we ingest a lot of sugar products, we’re not talking about natural sugars, we’re talking about artificial sugars, it actually lowers your immune system. Especially in populations with uncontrolled diabetes are actually more susceptible to this illness. 
  • Get proper rest
  • Exercise
  • Get fresh air, sun and Vitamin D
  • Eat fresh fruit and vegetables. Vitamin C is key to boosting the immune system. 
  • Reducing anxiety and stress as this works against your immune system. As Muslims, we make salat, getting in those extra Istikharah will help up reduce anxiety and bring us calmness.

Will it go away or come back like the flu?

Since it’s so new, we don’t have complete information on that. So right now we don’t know if it mutates seasonally like the flu or if you can you be reinfected. There is currently anti-body testing going on to see when our body sees a foreign subject will it create an anti-body to protect the body. 

Social distancing

Practice the suggested 6-ft social distancing. This virus is known to be airborne, for example, if you are near someone who coughs, droplets of the virus can get into your nose, mouth or eyes thereby transmitting into your body. 

Wash your hands

Because this virus is known to stay on surfaces, tables, boxes, door and car handles, gas pumps, it’s very important to wash your hands and clean surfaces often.

 And as a reminder not to touch your face without cleaning/lathering your hands with soap, often. As noted, the Coronavirus is also a protein and to breakdown proteins, you need to use water and soap. Lathering breaks down the virus, that why it’s suggested you thoroughly lather your hands for 20 seconds. If soap and water not readily available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. 

May Allah (SWT) protect you and your family from this disease.

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