Medical Professionals and Professors to Teach on COVID-19 Vaccines in Forum

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How did scientists develop multiple COVID-19 vaccines in under a year? Does history offer any lessons on combating vaccine resistance? What ethical qualms and social inequities have been highlighted by distribution of the vaccines?

These questions and more will be addressed in the U of A Honors College course Vaccine, a daily online forum that will be offered May 10-21.

Vaccine will bring together medical professionals, faculty experts and Chancellor Joe Steinmetz to provide context on the global race to manage the pandemic. Honors students may enroll in the course, and anyone who is interested may sit in. Students and members of the public who wish to view the course session online can fill out this form.

“One of the most uplifting stories about the COVID-19 pandemic is the speed with which vaccines have been developed,” said Trish Starks, associate professor of history. “Not just that there was a speedy development of the vaccine, but even the very quick identification of the disease itself.”

“Immunologists have only known about the ability to make mRNA vaccines in the last 10 years or so,” said Jeannine Durdik, associate dean and professor of biological sciences. The shorthand mRNA refers to the “messenger RNA,” a single-stranded RNA molecule that carries DNA code to other parts of a cell for processing. “The fact that [the mRNA vaccines] came out the winner in terms of getting to market the quickest is just amazing.”

Teaching Vaccine

Vaccine’s instructors will situate the COVID-19 vaccine within a broader narrative of the science of immunization, the history of vaccines, the social and economic inequalities produced by deploying a vaccine and the challenges presented to the global supply chain.  

The forum will start with a session led by sociology professors Grant Drawve, Kevin Fitzpatrick and Casey Harris, who will speak on the social inequalities revealed by vaccine distribution in the United States.

Over two weeks, professors from the U of A will present on topics ranging from medical decision-making to supply chain issues and drone deliveries.

Steinmetz and Dr. Huda Sharaf, medical director of the Pat Walker Health Center, will lead the forum’s final session on the university’s effort to vaccinate its students.

Presenters include:

  • Kaitlyn Akel, public health, University of Michigan; Honors College alumna
  • Lindsey Aloia, communication
  • Bob Beitle, chemical engineering
  • Burcu Bayram, political science
  • Jyotishka Datta, statistics
  • David Dobrzykowski, supply chain management
  • Grant Drawve, sociology
  • Jeannine Durdik, immunology
  • Casey Harris, sociology
  • Kevin Fitzpatrick, sociology
  • Casey Kayser, medical humanities
  • David McNabb, biological sciences
  • Ashlea Milburn, industrial engineering
  • Sarah Nurre, industrial engineering
  • Angie Ohler, University Libraries
  • Brian Primack, public health
  • Shannon Servoss, chemical engineering
  • Huda Sharaf, medical director, Pat Walker Health Center
  • Trish Starks, history of medicine
  • Joe Steinmetz, chancellor, U of A
  • Shengfan Zhang, industrial engineering

Recordings of each class will be posted online after each session to the Honors College website.

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: As Arkansas' flagship institution, the U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion to Arkansas’ economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while also providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the U of A among the top 3% of U.S. colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. See how the U of A works to build a better world at Arkansas Research News.


Hiba Tahir, editor
Honors College

Kendall Curlee, director of communications
Honors College


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