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COVID-19 Experts and Information for News Media

The pandemic that gripped the world, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its associated illness COVID-19, brought to the forefront the need to understand the intersection of the immune system, infectious disease and childhood cancer. Scientists at St. Jude have led research throughout the pandemic to understand better the virus, the impact of immunizations and the global effect on childhood cancer patients.

  • St. Jude Global, in partnership with the International Society of Paediatric Oncology (SIOP), created a global registry of cases of childhood cancer and COVID-19. The Global COVID-19 Observatory and Resource Center for Childhood Cancer helps clinicians and researchers learn about the impact of the virus on this vulnerable population.
  • St. Jude also hosts a U.S. registry of pediatric cases of COVID-19. The network is part of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society.
  • Early in the pandemic, St. Jude launched a clinical trial to study SARS-CoV-2 in the St. Jude employee population. The St. Jude Tracking of Viral and Host Factors Associated With COVID-19 study (SJTRC) gathered valuable baseline information about the subjects’ immune responses before infection and followed them after infection and vaccination. The study is ongoing, with samples regularly collected to observe the long-term effects of the pandemic.

To schedule interviews or speak with one of our experts, email

COVID-19 Experts

  • Diego R. Hijano, MD, MSc

    Diego Hijano, MD, MSc, St. Jude Department of Infectious Diseases, created, developed and sustains a program for COVID-19 case investigation and contact tracing that follows Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Tennessee Department of Health guidelines. The program is compliant with The Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations and fits the specific needs, values and culture of St. Jude. As the primary investigator for the St. Jude study for patients with COVID-19, he also trained, coordinated and led 14 volunteers to investigate cases and conduct contact tracing at St Jude. He is the deputy medical director of Occupational Health and the COVID-19 Case Investigation & Contact Tracing Lead at St. Jude.

  • Stacey L. Schultz-Cherry, PhD

    Stacey Schultz-Cherry, PhD, World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals and Birds deputy director, U.S. Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance co-director, is an expert in infectious diseases. She studies how influenza viruses and astroviruses (gastrointestinal) make people sick, as well as microbial co-infections, novel vaccines and therapeutics. Her recent work has investigated how factors such as obesity can make vaccines less protective, infections more severe and treatments less effective. Schultz-Cherry can provide information associated with increased efficacy in flu vaccines and new research surrounding global initiatives for better treatments of more vulnerable populations. She is an Associate Dean of Students at the St. Jude Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and a member of the St. Jude Department of Host-Microbe Interactions

  • Paul G. Thomas, PhD

    Paul Thomas, PhD, St. Jude Departments of Immunology and Host-Microbe Interactions, studies the immune system. Specifically, he is an expert in innate and adaptive immunity to influenza, T cell receptor types in infectious and cancerous states and influenza-associated, immune-induced healing responses and pathology. He is a principal investigator of an international study to understand how someone’s first exposure to flu, whether by infection or vaccine, can affect their immune responses for the rest of their lives. Thomas can provide insight into what shapes the immune response to the virus throughout one’s lifetime and comment on better methods to treat influenza. Thomas has also led research into how the immune system responds to COVID-19.

  • Richard Webby, PhD

    Richard Webby, PhD, St. Jude Department of Host-Microbe Interactions, directs the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals and Birds. He is an internationally recognized expert on influenza, specifically the group of viruses that led to the emergence of the 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus. Webby can provide information on novel vaccine approaches, virus ecology, virus pathogenicity and determinants of host susceptibility to viruses.