Arkansas Doctors, Gov. Hutchinson and U of A Professors to Teach on COVID-19

Members of the St. Louis Red Cross Motor Corps on duty during the 1918 flu pandemic.
Courtesy Library of Congress.

Members of the St. Louis Red Cross Motor Corps on duty during the 1918 flu pandemic.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The University of Arkansas Honors College will present a daily online forum titled Pandemic, which will bring together medical professionals, faculty experts and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to provide context on the global health crisis.

Pandemic, to be offered May 11-22, is one of the first college courses in the nation to focus on COVID-19 and will examine the crisis from multiple perspectives, from public health to supply chain management and economic impacts.

Honors students across the state may enroll in the course, and anyone who is interested may sit in. For more information on auditing the course contact Recordings of each class will be posted online after each session to the Honors College website.

“We are going to be talking about COVID-19 for a long time, and the leadership at the Honors College is right to start the thoughtful discussion now,” Gov. Hutchinson said. “The pandemic is a historic event. No area of life has escaped its touch. The coronavirus has forced us to focus on personal health and responsibility, the medical profession, the economy, governance, and communications. It has raised questions about basic human relationships on a global scale – do we respond with compassion for others, or are we driven by self interest? I am eager to hear what the other professionals will have to say. I am humbled for the chance to participate and to offer my perspective as governor.”

“There are so many who are reeling from the effects of this pandemic, and we have great experts here on campus who can provide context,” said Lynda Coon, dean of the Honors College and a professor of history. “Bringing in medical experts and Gov. Hutchinson, who have been on the front lines of fighting COVID-19, creates a unique opportunity for students to process and understand history as it happens.”


The forum will start with a session led by Dr. Mark Thomas, vice president and medical director of Population Health, and Dr. James Newton, an infectious disease specialist, both of whom are leaders managing the outbreak at Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville.

Hutchinson and Dr. James Bledsoe, Arkansas’ chief physician specialist, will be featured on the forum’s final day with a session about Arkansas’ response to the crisis.

Over two weeks, professors from the U of A will present on topics that shed light on COVID-19, from lessons learned from past epidemics to research on animal-human transmission to analysis of the economic aftershocks of social distancing. Presenters include:

  • Lynda Coon, medieval history and religion
  • Di Fang, economics and agricultural business
  • Kristian Forbes, biological sciences
  • Chaim Goodman-Strauss, mathematical sciences
  • Kelly Hammond, history of modern Asia
  • Lynn Jacobs, medieval art history
  • Jennie Popp, economics and agricultural business
  • Jeremy Powell, animal sciences
  • Dr. Brian Primack, public health and medicine
  • Trish Starks, history of medicine
  • Daniel Sui, geosciences
  • Lauren Thomas, animal science
  • Matt Waller, supply chain management
  • Jiangchao Zhao, animal science

Other experts who will also participate: 

  • John Cairns, health economics, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • Dr. Laura Rothfeldt, Arkansas Public Health Veterinarian

Arkansas’ Response

On Friday, May 22, Hutchinson will discuss the state’s response, reflect on lessons learned, and lead a Q&A session with students enrolled in the course. Bledsoe will address specifics on the epidemiology of COVID-19 in the state.

Honors students throughout the state may enroll in the course for credit thanks to Honors Arkansas, a consortium of honors programs and colleges.

“Our partners in Honors Arkansas have stepped up to help us expand enrollment and amplify the impact of this forum,” said Dean Coon.

About the Honors College: Established in 2002, the University of Arkansas Honors College helps the university’s top undergraduate students excel academically, flourish personally and experience a world of opportunities. Each year the Honors College awards up to 90 freshman fellowships that provide $72,000 over four years, and more than $1 million in undergraduate research and study abroad grants. The Honors College is nationally recognized for the high caliber of students it admits and graduates. Honors students enjoy small, in-depth classes, and programs are offered in all disciplines, tailored to students’ academic interests, with interdisciplinary collaborations encouraged. Fifty percent of Honors College graduates have studied abroad and 100 percent of them have engaged in mentored research.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among fewer than 3% of colleges and universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


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