IRP’s Diana Bianchi Honored for Leading Pediatric COVID Response
When the first reports of COVID-19 came out, infectious disease experts and healthcare providers thought children might be spared its most dire effects. After all, the news reports and health statistics showed that nearly all serious cases occurred in the elderly, people with certain pre-existing conditions, and those who spent their days and nights caring for COVID patients. However, as case counts rose and disruptions in daily life grew, the medical and psychological effects of COVID on children became apparent — and the impact was alarming. It soon became clear that something had to be done to understand the disease's effects on infants, children and teens, as well as pregnant women and traditionally underserved communities.
It was, appropriately, Mother’s Day when then-NIH Director Francis Collins sought help from Diana W. Bianchi, M.D., Director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and a senior investigator in the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). An expert in infant health and genetic conditions like Down syndrome, Dr. Bianchi was just the person to initiate large-scale studies across the country to assess the severity of COVID in specific populations, the safety and efficacy of vaccination and treatment, and the impact of mitigation efforts such as masking. For this critical leadership, Dr. Bianchi was named a finalist for the 2022 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal for COVID-19 Response.