Webb fights COVID and racial inequities from the hospital to the White House

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Dr. Cameron Webb is a senior policy advisor for equity for the White House COVID response team. (AP Photo)

By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
mgreen@afro.com

Dr. Cameron Webb is both a physician and lawyer who has used his interests and experiences in medicine and law to truly serve within the intersectionality of health and social justice.

“I serve as the senior policy advisor for equity for the White House COVID response team.  So I work with the small team that’s tasked with pulling our nation out of this crisis.  We’re working on the vaccine front, yes, but also on testing, also on the therapeutics that are out there, the range of dynamics that come together to really improve the nation’s opportunity to get through this crisis,” Webb, who keeps a busy schedule as a practicing physician, told the AFRO on Facebook Live.  “I’m a practicing internal medicine doctor, so I still do see patients.  

Webb said he still practices medicine to stay on the forefront of the COVID-19 fight.

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“I work on the coronavirus unit or the special pathogens unit at the University of Virginia so when I came into the White House when I was asked to come and serve in this capacity, the one request I made was, ‘Can I continue to see patients, because we’re still in a crisis and I want to do my part.’  So I still do that as well and that’s a big part of who I am, the lawyer in me.  Part of my role at the University of Virginia was I was the Director of Health, Policy and Equity at the University of Virginia School of Medicine so I’m currently on a leave of absence from that role to do that White House role.”

The accomplished millennial doctor, lawyer and proud husband and father said that people have been talking about health inequities for quite some time, but it’s important to further the needle.

“The arc of our history, if you look at it, the arrival of enslaved Africans, going on 402 years ago from now, that arrival, and then you look at what was called the slave health deficit, and then you look at your W.E.B. DuBois and the Philadelphia Negro, when he described the disproportionate impact in communities in Philadelphia, and you look at Dr. King, who in the mid-1960s, who said of all forms of injustice the inequality in health care is the most shocking and inhuman, you go 20 years later and Health and Human Services released a report on Black and minority health that outlined all these disparities, and 18 years later in the early 2000s, you had the report ‘Unequal Treatment,’” Webb said.  “We’ve been talking about disparities and inequities for a really long time and I think when it comes down to it, every generation has a responsibility to move that ball a little bit farther and move us closer to equity and we’re at a point now where we’ve got everything we need, we know the size of the problem in front of us and that’s why I think I’m so excited to work in the Biden-Harris administration on this.”

Dr. Cameron Webb is a senior policy advisor for equity for the White House COVID response team. (AP Photo)

The doctor emphasized that equity is a major concern because if health inequities are addressed, leaders can achieve a larger goal of ending disparities across the board.

“We take it, we do our best to address the equity concerns and then we say, ‘How do we apply these learnings to all these other inequities that exist within health and just the lived experiences of communities of color?’ and that’s the important moment we have,” Webb explained.

With Black and Brown communities being most affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic, as COVID-19 vaccines become more available, Webb said the Biden administration and the White House COVID response team is working to bring vaccines to these vulnerable communities for a number of reasons.

“Yes, we want to focus on what’s called, ‘vaccine hesitancy,’ but that has lots of different flavors.  It comes in the form of complacency… Then there’s the confidence piece, folks who say, ‘I don’t know that it’s safe.  I don’t know that it’s effective or I don’t know the hospital, pharmacy or clinic that’s going to give it to me.  Or finally I don’t know if I trust the government that’s telling me to get vaccinated,” Webb said, before explaining the third iteration of vaccine hesitancy.  “ And then the third thing version is convenience- and that’s the vaccine access part, and we spend a lot of our time increasing access to vaccines. That’s more than used for vaccination, like our mass vaccination sites, or like our Retail Pharmacy Program is getting more vaccines into communities through pharmacies, or even our federally qualified health centers, the Community Health Centers Program that’s getting vaccines to communities through community health centers. We have to create more opportunities for folks to get vaccinated or just have spaces for people to go and get their shot.”

Dr. Webb said while there’s work to be done, it isvery possible to address the confidence concerns in communities of color.

“There’s a lot of work we can do to improve confidence- that we must do to improve confidence- because I think people need to hear that it’s safe, that it’s’ effective.  The only intention here is to save lives and get us through this pandemic,” the doctor told the AFRO.

Webb said the time is now where people must come together to make a change.  

“I think this is just one of those moments where everybody has to bring what they have to this situation to try and make a change.  The statistics that we’re able to see, the data that we have, that shows us the disproportionate impact of so many conditions on communities of color that tells us the time was at least a few years ago, and if we couldn’t have solved it in years past, then the second best time is right now.”

He also passionately emphasized the incredible importance of Black people getting the vaccine. 

“The greatest threat to Black health here is not being protected in this pandemic,” referring to the vaccine.