Weill Cornell Medicine Alumni Lead Washington State Tribe’s COVID Response

February 10, 2022


Dr. Dakotah Lane, M.D. '13, and Dr. Cristina Toledo-Cornell, M.D. '13, have spent the pandemic partnering to reduce the toll of COVID-19 in one Native American tribal community, their efforts helping to minimize hospitalization and death and encourage high vaccination rates among the Lummi Nation of Northwest Washington State.

Dr. Lane, director of the tribe’s health clinic, and Dr. Toledo-Cornell, public health director of the Lummi Tribal Health Center until July 2021, returned to Weill Cornell Medicine to describe their pandemic experiences during a virtual town hall held in November by the Weill Cornell Medicine Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Key to their success, they said there and in subsequent interviews, was a preventative, public health strategy that anticipated community-specific needs, such as opening locations for infected members of multi-generational households to safely isolate, and providing clear information in response to concerns about vaccines. Such a response was only possible, they emphasized, because of proven trustworthiness and close communication with the tribe and its political leadership early in the pandemic. “The best thing we could do is be as transparent as possible, even when we didn’t know something, or when we made a mistake, because there would come a time when we had to ask the community to make a hard decision, and in order for them to do that, they have to trust our opinions,” said Dr. Lane, who is an enrolled member of the Lummi Tribe.

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