- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
So began an unsolicited email to UC Davis distinguished professor Walter Leal, who organized and moderated a UC Davis-based COVID-19 virtual symposium spotlighting the expertise of physicians, scientists and a COVID-19 survivor.
“This give me a sense of hope and calmed my anxiety like nothing else,” letter writer Kim Allen continued. “Part of what has been so hard is all the disinformation and complete lies and contradictions that are happening daily. To hear people, real doctors and scientists who are so knowledgeable talk about what is going on and why, is so appreciated. We need to know what we are contending with to fight it and be safe. You are all so much appreciated!”
The webinar, held Thursday afternoon, April 23, with an introduction by UC Davis Chancellor Gary May, drew viewers from 10 countries: United States, Germany, Brazil, France, Indonesia, India, Mexico, Canada, Colombia, and Slovakia. A full house on Zoom resulted in an overflow crowd watching it on the YouTube. See https://bit.ly/2VurK3Z.
It will remain on YouTube, said Leal, a UC Davis distinguished professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and a former professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
As of Friday noon, more than 1000 had tuned into the channel, and thousands more are expected.
“Given the volume of the material and questions to cover, the symposium was extended from 2.5 hours to 3 hours and 41 minutes,” said Leal, a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and the recipient of numerous research, teaching and public service awards.
Speaking live and answering questions were five panel members: UC Davis physician-scientists Emanuel Maverakis, Stuart Cohen and Nathan Kuppermann; UC Davis veterinarian-scientist Nicole Baumgarth; and pediatrician State Sen. Richard Pan, District 6, and chair, Senate Committee on Health.
They all agreed that the COVID-19 isn't going away anytime soon, that the virus is mutating, and that it must be taking seriously.
Davis resident Marilyn Stebbins, a pharmacist on the faculty of the UC San Francisco School of Pharmacy--and a survivor of the deadly illness--told her story to Leal in a pre-recorded interview. Unlike most other COVID-19 patients, Stebbins never had a fever. And unlike many other patients, the 58-year-old was healthy with no underlying medical conditions.
Also sharing their medical or scientific expertise with Leal in pre-recorded interviews: Michael B. A. Oldstone, M.D., of Scripps Research Institute, who pioneered the field of viral immunology and has been a leader in viral pathogenesis and immunity for the past four decades; professor emeritus Niels Pedersen, DMV, of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine; and Anne Wyllie, PhD., Yale University School of Medicine.
James R. Carey, distinguished professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, contributed his scientific modeling expertise in a pre-recorded video. In addition, in a pre-recorded interview, You-Lo Hsieh, UC Davis distinguished professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, and an expert on textiles and clothing, explained the differences between regular masks, surgical masks, and N95 masks, and why certain kinds of fabric should not be used.
Bottom line: the much-needed symposium provided a wealth of information--factual information from the experts who work behind the scenes. They chronicled the history of the COVID-19 virus, how it infects us, how it spreads, possible medications that may be used to treat it, the desperate need for a vaccine, and what we can do to flatten the curve--and why this is all crucial.
"Our heroes," as Kim Allen wrote.