Dr. Angélique Blackburn

The Specialists Cohort (Texas)

Angélique Blackburn (Texas)

Angélique Michelle Blackburn, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Texas A&M International University, with specializations in cognitive neuroscience, survey design, and bilingualism.

She uses neurocognitive and survey methods to study the long-term effects of language habits on cognition.

Integral to this research has been large-scale data collection to create a series of validated surveys, including the Survey of Experience in Code Switching Environments (SECSE), a reliable and valid measure of bilingual language experiences. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, Blackburn dedicated her 2020 Spring Break to volunteering her research skills as needed to help combat the pandemic. 

Because of her expertise in survey design and survey science, Blackburn was recruited to join the COVIDiSTRESS Global Research Consortium, where she aided in the creation of a global survey regarding the impact of COVID-19.

This Consortium now includes over 100 members who have collected data from 173,426 respondents from 179 countries. She also began a longitudinal study on the impact of COVID-19 in Laredo, TX in March 2020, because this was one of the communities predicted to be most heavily impacted by the pandemic in the United States.

This foresight provides the rare opportunity to follow the impact of COVID-19 on one community from before the area discovered their first local COVID-19 case through the time when they began to lead the nation as the worst COVID-19 hotspot.

A few words from those who nominated Angélique Blackburn:

“Dr. Blackburn has been active in our local community. She was diligent about educating students and community members about social distancing, even before anyone in Texas knew what that meant. She began a longterm study of COVID-19 in March of 2020 because she predicted that Laredo would suffer long-term consequences of the pandemic. This is because Laredo is both an economic hub as an entry point into Mexico and because the Hispanic population is one which is most affected by COVID-19. She also helped to design the GLOBALDiSTRESS COVID-19 survey. This survey was taken by participants from all over the globe and the data is open to all researchers. Dr. Blackburn has worked largely behind the scenes on the project by helping to create the survey and collect data with a team of researchers from around the world. To summarize, Dr. Blackburn has made a large impact, both locally and globally, on our data and knowledge of how COVID-19 has affected the world.”

“Dr. Blackburn was one of the eight survey design psychologists who created the GLOBALDiSTRESS COVID-19 survey, a study that resulted in nearly 200,000 participants from 179 countries. This dataset is open-access, so many scientists have already published results of the dataset. She also started one of the first longitudinal studies on the impact of COVID-19 in Laredo, Texas. Laredo is an interesting case study, as it was the first city in the United States to mandate masks, is one of the cities that has been heavily impacted by the pandemic, and has a large Hispanic population, one of the groups most affected by COVID-19. Laredo is an often overlooked community and suffers from some pretty extreme inequalities. Dr. Blackburn’s project focusing on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemics impact on this population is an amazing contribution to the state of Texas and to the Laredo community. “

Click here to follow Dr. Blackburn on Twitter.

Dr. Peter Hotez

The Speciliasts Group (Texas)

Dr. Peter Hotez (Texas)

If you’ve watched the news at all this past year, you’ve definitely seen him before.

Dr. Peter Hotez appears almost daily on CNN or MSNBC, explaining the science behind COVID-19 epidemiology and vaccinology to the public, while also communicating with fellow scientists to highlight cutting edge findings in the pandemic.

With his signature round-rimmed glasses, bowtie, and wide smile (with dimples and a mustache to boot), Dr. Hotez makes it a point to confront disinformation and those who spread it using the data and his warming demeaner to reach as many people as he can.

Apart from the usual guest appearances on television, Dr. Hotez stretches his time to fit in data-driven analysis, editorials, podcasts, and alternative-media interviews, ensuring the data and science reach a wide range of audiences.

Not only does Dr. Hotez fight dangerous misinformation on prime-time, but he also works on the research that helped develop the vaccines, and to address issues of vaccine hesitancy.

An article Dr. Hotez recently published in the journal Microbes and Infection documents the rise in anti-science extremism during the last five years, and addresses critical concerns over the forces who seek to dismember the public from medical experts and scientists.

For his efforts, like many of our nominees, Dr. Hotez has been harassed, threatened and suffered personally from the anti-science and anti-vaccine groups.

Dr. Bob Watcher, another one of our nominees who is currently hosting Andy Slavitt’s “In the Bubble” science podcast while he serves on the COVID-19 White House Task Force, recently commended Dr. Hotez for his bravery:

Dr. Hotez is a vaccine scientist at Baylor College of Medicine who co-leads a team of scientists developing a new COVID-19 vaccine suitable for global health and now being scaled for production in India.

And when the flocks of alt-right and science-impaired do attack, Dr. Hotez is ready with a witty reply to puts the focus back where it belongs.

A few public comments of support for Dr. Peter Hotez:

“Always appreciate Dr. Hotez’ talent to communicate big info w/o resorting to drama or fear. We need to be well-informed to choose accordingly, not so freaked out that we just hide!”

“I’m blessed to live in the same city as Dr. Peter Hotez. I’ve been following his research since before COVID and am glad he’s at the forefront keeping us informed.”

Click here to follow Peter on Twitter
Click here to visit Peter’s website

Dr. Emily Smith

The Specialists Cohort (Texas)

Dr. Emily Smith (Texas)

Dr. Emily Smith, who also goes by moniker “Your Friendly Neighbor Epidemiologist,” is an assistant professor of epidemiology at Baylor University. Her research focuses on pediatric epidemiology and global health, particularly in developing nations.

Dr. Smith began providing a forum — both on Facebook and through her website — for her neighbors to ask (and have answered) questions about COVID-19 last March (2020).

The project quickly bloomed from its humble origins, and Dr. Smith became a celebrated science communicator across Texas, with 71,420 followers on Facebook as of March 2, 20201.

She works on the principals of “Love thy neighbor,” and makes communicating pandemic data and risks about communities. She works to reach out to faith-based organizations and open dialogues about social responsibility, from the church where her husband is a pastor to more conservative-leaning religious organizations.

Like many of our nominees, Dr. Smith endures harassment for her efforts to bring data to the public. Last August, she remarked on the shift in tone.

“At the beginning, people just said thank you and by and large were appreciative of trying to figure out what the pandemic was,” Dr. Smith said in an interview with Baptist News. “The further we’ve gotten into it, there is a significant divide on people who are posting. I have to delete or hide most of them, because that is not the battle we are facing.”

The author also captured her personable and collaborative attitude, noting “…she wants to talk to anyone who will listen in her naturally friendly tone, like talking to a really smart neighbor who just might be the nicest person you ever met.”

A few words from those who nominated Dr. Emily Smith:

“Emily Smith has made epidemiology relevant and applicable to the “average Joe/Jane” with her moniker as “your friendly local epidemiologist” in an area of Texas with many Covid deniers. She accidentally garnered a large following of people who want to learn more and of people who are simply curious. Her style is kind, yet informative, and she has filled a needed communication gap during the pandemic. Hats off to Dr. Smith for reaching out to common folk on Facebook and figuring out how to engage and act on important ideas.”

“Dr. Smith has been teaching the public about COVID-19 and related issues through posts on Facebook and her website. She has been guiding her community of followers through the pandemic with science-based information stated clearly enough for laymen to follow. She has been able to be encouraging yet realistic without fail. People have learned to depend upon her to deliver accurate information which they can use in their personal health decision making. Dr. Smith has demonstrated devotion to humankind and dedication to the field of epidemiology. The countless hours which she has spent serving the public on these forums has been without compensation. She deserves to be recognized for her exemplary work.”

“Dr. Smith has become one of my favorite resources for info about COVID-19 and the vaccines. She does a wonderful job of explaining data to non-experts in ways that are easy to understand and relatable, and always includes links to original data sources and articles. While Facebook has been her primary platform, she shares most of her posts on her website to increase accessibility. I’ve appreciate that she also sometimes speaks not only as an epidemiologist, but also as part of a religious community who has struggled with people not believing in/following the science; she has clearly addressed many myths, has endured personal criticism and threats, and has worked to support religious leaders that are seeking to serve their communities who may have opposing views. Though all of this, she has lived up to her nickname of Friendly Neighbor Epidemiologist!”

Click here to visit Dr. Smith’s Facebook page
Click here to visit Dr. Smith’s website.
Click here to visit Dr. Smith’s Twitter.

Dr. Katelyn Jetelina

The Specialists Cohort (Texas)

Dr. Katelyn Jetelina has a Masters in Public Health and PhD in Epidemiology and Biostatistics. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics, and Environmental Sciences at the UTHealth School of Public Health where her research lab resides and where she teaches PhD, MD, and Masters students. She also has a secondary appointment at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.  

Dr. Katelyn Jetelina (Texas)

If she’s learned one thing throughout this pandemic, it’s the lack of scientific “translation” to the community. Without the translation, many are left to biased reports, inaccurate descriptions of the current state of affairs, and confusion and anxiety. So, she developed a Facebook page and Instagram page to “close the communication loop” by providing a direct line from science to the community.

Her posts are 100% data-driven and backed by the most recent scientific evidence. Some of these are her own analyses, some of these are based on other brilliant scientists peer reviewed studies, and some are science-driven resources.

She has 200,000 followers on social media and 20,000 people that have subscribed to her newsletter. Her posts reach, on average, 3 million people a day. This is her service to the community, she said.

A few words from those who nominated Dr. Katelyn Jetelina:

“Dr Jetelina has provided invaluable information regarding the virus, the spread and the vaccine. I look to her for accurate and insightful information regularly. Having a good source for accurate interpretation of the data has no doubt helped me understand this virus but also helped save lives. She currently has 160,000 followers on Facebook and Instagram combined. She has a great passion for this and recently had to fight to regain control of her Facebook page after someone hacked it. Her evidenced based information is used by individuals and organizations alike to help make decisions. Please consider her as a nominee for this great award.”

“Dr. Jetelina has continued to interpret/translate the data into very understandable information. Given that I started following her Facebook page because other moms that I knew were doing the same, means that the information that she provides is scientific, has integrity and is understandable and helpful for someone like me who does not have a science background.”

“Willingness to disseminate data on Covid-19 in a way that is understandable to the public when CDC and State and Federal Government did not provide frequent local data. She had a baby during the pandemic and continued to keep followers informed as soon as possible. Her Facebook page was hacked and she created a newsletter to keep sharing information that can help the public understand how the virus has mutated and best way to stay safe. So thankful for her, her call to action and keeping the facts at the forefront when information was lacking and distorted for political reasons. “

Click here to see Dr. Katelyn’s website

Click here to follow her on Twitter