Massachusetts Medical Society: COVID-19 and Vulnerable Populations

COVID-19 and Vulnerable Populations

Covid-19 and Vulnerable Populations

Course Overview
COVID-19 has taken a disparate toll on vulnerable populations in Massachusetts and across the country. Data released in mid-June by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health COVID-19 Health Equity Advisory Board revealed Black and Hispanic populations, in particular, experience disproportionate rates of infection, hospitalizations and deaths from the virus—the data showed their case rate is three times that of White populations.

In this web forum (recorded June 30, 2020) moderated by Simone Wildes, MD, Chair of the MMS Committee on Diversity, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH, and Mary Bassett, MD, MPH, director of the Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, discuss the impact COVID-19 has had on vulnerable populations, including Black and Hispanic patients, essential workers and others, in Massachusetts and across the country, and what can be done to address these disparities. Dr. Bassett and Dr. Wildes have both served on the COVID-19 Health Equity Advisory Board convened by Commissioner Bharel.


Monica Bharel, MD, MPH, is the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, appointed in February of 2015. She has led the state’s public health response to the COVID-19 crisis and served on the Governor’s Reopening Advisory Board. Previously, she served as the Chief Medical Officer of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, the largest nonprofit health care organization for homeless individuals in the country.  Dr. Bharel has served on the faculty of Boston University Medical School, Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health. She was previously at Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Medical Center. She has practiced general internal medicine for 20 years in neighborhood health centers, city hospitals, the Veterans Administration, university hospitals and nonprofit organizations.  She received her Master of Public Health degree through the Commonwealth Fund/Harvard University Fellowship in Minority Health Policy, with a concentration in health care policy and management in 2012. She received her medical degree from Boston University School of Medicine in 1994 and in 1998 completed a residency and chief residency in internal medicine at Boston City Hospital/Boston Medical Center.  

Mary T. Bassett, MD, MPH, is director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights and FXB professor of the practice of health and human rights at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.  From 2014 to August 2018, Bassett served as commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, where she worked to address the structural racism at the root of the city’s health gaps between whites and communities of color. From 2009 to 2014, Bassett served as program director for the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s African Health Initiative and Child Well-Being Prevention Program.  In 2002, Dr. Bassett was appointed deputy commissioner of health promotion and disease prevention at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Her signature program was the launch of District Public Health Offices in several neighborhoods harmed by racial, ethnic and economic health inequities.  Early in her career, Bassett served on the medical faculty at the University of Zimbabwe for 17 years and developed a range of AIDS prevention interventions. She went on to serve as associate director of health equity at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Southern Africa Office, overseeing its Africa AIDS portfolio.  Bassett received a bachelor’s degree in history and science from Harvard University, a doctor of medicine degree from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons (serving her residency at Harlem Hospital Center) and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Washington.

Moderator, Simone Wildes, MD is Chair of the MMS Committee on Diversity and Vice Chair of the MMS Committee on Public Health, and is a member of the MMS Board of Trustees and the MMS Committee on Membership.  Dr. Wildes is an Infectious Disease Specialist in South Weymouth, MA and has over 23 years of experience in the medical field. She graduated from Loma Linda University School of Medicine in 1997. She is affiliated with South Shore Hospital.


  • Discuss the available data that document social disparities, particularly by race/ethnicity, in COVID-19 infection and death rates
  • Describe strategies to protect vulnerable populations and promote health equity

Course Fees
Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) Physician Member: Free
MMS Resident/Student Member: Free
Non-Member Physician: Free
Non-Members Resident/Student: Free
Allied Health Professional/Other: Free

Format & Estimated Time to Complete: Video/1 hour

Accreditation Statement
Accreditation and Credit Information
The Massachusetts Medical Society is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians. 

AMA Credit Designation Statement
The Massachusetts Medical Society designates this internet enduring material for a maximum of 1.00 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

This activity meets the criteria for the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine for risk management study.

National Commission on Certification of Physicians Assistant (NCCPA)
Physician Assistants may claim a maximum of 1.00 Category 1 credits for completing this activity. NCCPA accepts AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™ from organizations accredited by ACCME or a recognized state medical society.

MOC Approval Statement
Through the American Board of Medical Specialties (“ABMS”) ongoing commitment to increase access to practice relevant Continuing Certification Activities through the ABMS Continuing Certification Directory, this activity has met the requirements as a MOC Part II CME Activity(apply toward general CME requirement) for the following ABMS Member Boards: 

Allergy and Immunology
Family Medicine
Medical Genetics and Genomics
Nuclear Medicine
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Preventive Medicine
Psychiatry and Neurology
Thoracic Surgery

Exam/Assessment: You must complete the assessment at the end of the course to receive AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™.

Activity Term
Original Release Date: July 10, 2020
Review Date (s): N/A
Termination Date: July 10, 2023

Course Developers, Reviewers & Web Producer:
Robyn Alie, Manager, Public Health, Massachusetts Medical Society
Vanessa P. Kenealy, JD, Public Health & Preparedness Programs Specialist, Massachusetts Medical Society
Thelma Tatten, Web Content Production Specialist, NEJM Group Education

System Requirements

Windows 10
Mac OSX 10.6 higher

Most modern browsers including:  
IE 11+
Firefox 18.0+
Chrome latest version
Safari 12+

iOS devices beginning with OS version 10 or higher (includes, iPhone, ipad and iTouch devices) 

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