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News Release

VLS to Explore COVID-19 Racial Disparities with Embedded Racism in the Law Discussion Panel

Monday, February 22, 2021


“A Discussion on the Disparate Impact of COVID-19 on People of Color" to be held Feb. 25.

SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt. (Feb. 22, 2021) – Vermont Law School will examine the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color when it hosts "A Discussion on the Disparate Impact of COVID-19 on People of Color," Thursday, Feb. 25, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.  

Part of the Embedded Racism in the Law discussion series presented by the VLS Diversity Committee, the free event open to the public and will be livestreamed at

“People of color have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” said Shirley Jefferson, VLS’s associate dean for student affairs and diversity and an associate professor of law. “They have tested positive for the disease at higher rates and suffered more adverse health impacts from it than their white counterparts. This isn’t only a national trend. It’s happening here in Vermont as well.”  

A panel that includes physicians and legal and health care policy experts will look behind the numbers to explore the inequities in the social determinants of health, such as poverty, healthcare access, and employment that influence a wide range of health risks and outcomes for people of color. The discussion will examine how the pandemic has exacerbated these inequities and start a conversation on the impacts of government policies and laws, including immigration policies, on the racial and ethnic disparities in infection and death during this pandemic.
Panelists will include: Dr. Maria Mercedes Avila, PH.D, MSW, MED, associate professor of pediatrics, University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine; Mark Latham, professor of law, Environmental Law Center, Vermont Law School; Wendy E. Parmet, Matthews Distinguished University Professor of Law, director, Center for Health Policy and Law, Northeastern University School of Law; and, Dr. Don Bambino Geno Tai, MD, MBA, instructor of medicine, College of Medicine and Science, fellow, Division of Infectious Diseases, Mayo Clinic.

Additional events in the discussion series will be held March 25, April 22, and June 17.

The VLS Diversity Committee is comprised of members of the faculty, staff, and students, and serves as the primary catalyst for efforts to address diversity within the law school.  Its primary mission is to educate the VLS community on the diversity, differences, needs, and obstacles confronted by faculty, staff, and students with diverse backgrounds.