CUIMC and NYP Conclude Community Health Workers Town Halls

July 21, 2021

As part of the continued effort to work collaboratively with our local community, Columbia University and NewYork-Presbyterian hosted a series of Town Halls directed to, and in collaboration with, community health workers serving Upper Manhattan.

The town halls were the result of recommendations made by the CUIMC Task Force for Addressing Structural Racism and are also part of a wider collaborative effort to improve overall health outcomes in northern Manhattan.

The Community Health Workers Town Hall Series aimed to provide helpful information and practical resources about COVID-19 vaccines to community health workers serving Harlem, Washington Heights, Inwood, and the South Bronx. The goal of the Town Hall series was to address issues of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, access, and distribution. 

Under the leadership of Rafael Lantigua, MD, professor of medicine and associate dean for community service at the Vagelos College of Physicians (VP&S) and Olajide Williams, MD, professor of neurology, and associate dean for community research and engagement at VP&S the town halls brought together local community leaders, members of faith-based organizations, community health workers serving Upper Manhattan, and medical professionals.

Launched on Thursday, March 4th, 2021, the Community Health Workers Town Hall Series was an interactive and informative discussion by local leaders, medical experts, and community health workers. The town hall addressed questions and concerns regarding the COVID-19 vaccines. Remarks were given by Torian Easterling, MD, first deputy commissioner and chief equity officer at New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; Julia Iyasere, MD, assistant professor of medicine at VP&S and vice president of the Center for Health Justice at NewYork-Presbyterian; New York State Secretary of State Rossana Rosado; Magdalena Sobieszczyk, MD, associate professor of medicine and chief of infectious diseases at VP&S; and Melissa Stockwell, MD, associate professor of pediatrics and chief of child and adolescent medicine at VP&S. Special guests included U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat and Grammy Award-winning artist DMC of Run-DMC, who collaborated with Williams to create a series of promotional videos for Hip Hop Public Health.

The following town hall was dedicated to vaccine safety and efficacy. Judith Absalon, MD, MPH'02, a senior medical director of vaccine clinical research and development at Pfizer, and core clinical team member of the COVID-19 vaccine development program was invited as the keynote speaker. After Absalon’s remarks, participants joined breakout discussions to refine and review a helpful toolkit for community health workers overing COVID-19 vaccine access and hesitancy.

On Thursday, May 6th, post-COVID syndrome was discussed. The event included presentations and a panel discussion featuring Magdalena Sobieszczyk, MDDelivette Castor, PhD, assistant professor of medical sciences (in medicine); and Lawrence Purpura, MD, MPHTM, MS, postdoctoral clinical fellow in the Department of Medicine and assistant attending physician at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia.

The 2021 series concluded, on June 3rd, community health workers and partners conversed about the impact that COVID-19 had on our community’s mental health. The keynote speaker was Warren Ng, MD, MPH, professor of psychiatry at VP&S, medical director outpatient behavioral health at NYP-CUMC, and director of clinical services child and adolescent psychiatry. The town hall also included a panel discussion featuring Sidney Hankerson, M.D., M.B.A, assistant professor of psychiatry at VP&S and co-director of the Columbia University Wellness Center and Rev. Dr. Jesse T. Williams, Jr Senior Pastor, Convent Avenue Baptist Church of New York City.

Each event was made possible through a collaboration with the Columbia Community Wellness Center, the Center for Community Health Navigation at NewYork-Presbyterian, the CUIMC Office of Community Service Programs, and the CUIMC Office of Government and Community Affairs.

To learn more about the Community Health Workers Town Hall Series and to watch recordings

please visit  


Campus News, Mental Health, Public Health