By‌ ‌Jessica‌ ‌Dortch‌ ‌ ‌
AFRO‌ ‌Production‌ ‌Editor‌ ‌ ‌


During this time of crisis and tumult in our country, the AFRO continues to celebrate Black practitioners who serve their communities, either from the frontlines or behind the scenes. This week, the AFRO introduces Dr. Garth Graham. 

AFRO: What is your title and how long have you been in healthcare?

Dr. Graham: I am the vice president of community health at CVS Health and I have been in different areas of healthcare over the past 19 years. Previously, I was head of the office of minority health in the federal government, I was chief of health services research at the University of Florida, and I practiced as a cardiologist for many years. 

Dr. Garth Graham (Courtesy of CVS)

AFRO: What makes coronavirus different from other diseases (H1N1, Measles, Flu) the nation has experienced? 

Dr. Graham: There are a couple of things that make it challenging: it is easily transmissible, so it is easily transmitted from one person to the next. We’ve seen other viruses that are transmitted, but coronavirus is particularly easily transmitted because it gets aerosolized, which means it gets into the air around us if we are in group settings or large settings and then to other people. The other thing that is a challenge is that there are many people that don’t have symptoms. You have people who are walking around that may have the virus, and then it gets in the air and passed on to someone who is more vulnerable. 

From a clinical perspective, the speed in which many people, with the vast majority of them not getting seriously ill, get more sick is something that is challenging not only to watch but to treat. This virus is so new that there are all kinds of things that we are learning on an almost week by week basis. The impact on minority communities is not new. We saw this with H1N1, we see this with both the regular flu and pneumonia, so the continued disproportionate impact is not new. 

AFRO: What factors about coronavirus concern you the most as a health expert?

Dr. Graham: For me, personally, the ease of transmissibility is the thing that concerns me the most. There was one point that we were all somewhat relieved that the virus did not have a significant impact on children, and then we started seeing this new complication in children called the multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children disease in New York City and in other places. What concerns me is how much we don’t know, and how much we are “learning on the job,” so to speak. This new complication in children is particularly concerning to me. 

AFRO: What can African Americans, specifically, do to stay safe? 

Dr. Graham: Certainly, I think that protecting our elderly population is really important. If we have symptoms or develop any concerning signs for coronavirus, isolating yourself, if possible, from those who are the most vulnerable is particularly important. Another thing is observing all the recommendations for social distancing, which sounds simple, but it is the most impactful thing we have that has been shown to prevent the disease. Understanding the importance of social distancing is key. Lastly, if you feel that you have symptoms, or if you feel that you are getting sick, isolate yourself from individuals who are at higher risk, and getting tested is important. 

Remember, if you start to feel sick and are showing any of the following symptoms: fever, muscle aches, chills and a persistent cough, contact your physician immediately. For more information and the latest updates on COVID-19, visit

Jessica Dortch is the AFRO’s production editor who may be reached at