Inequality, Racism and COVID-19

Sulzberger Distinguished Lecture
Cynthia García Coll, professor in the Pediatrics Department, University of Puerto Rico Medical School, and the Charles Pitts Robinson and John Palmer Barstow Professor Emerita at Brown University

As this historic pandemic unfolds, we see Black, Indigenous, and people of color overrepresented in its dire consequences: increased numbers in positive COVID-19 cases and deaths, layoffs, evictions, and food insecurity. Existing inequality in educational opportunities, housing, healthcare, and employment and various expressions of racism (i.e. institutional, psychological, etc.) might explain the extreme vulnerability of these populations in natural and man-made disasters. What are the implications of these recurrent observations for local and national child and family policy?

Cynthia García Coll is an adjunct professor in the Pediatrics Department at the University of Puerto Rico Medical School and the Charles Pitts Robinson and John Palmer Barstow Professor Emerita at Brown University. Prior to moving back to Puerto Rico in 2011, she was a professor of education, psychology and pediatrics for 30 years at Brown University. Her research focuses on the interplay of sociocultural and biological influences on child development, with particular emphasis on populations that live in at-risk conditions and/or are considered minorities.

García Coll is the co-author of “Assessing the Impact of COVID-19 on Children and Youth” in the January 2021 issue of the Delaware Journal of Public Health. She also co-authored this piece about the effects of the pandemic on children in the Providence Journal. She has served on the editorial boards of many leading academic journals, including as senior editor of Child Development and Developmental Psychology and has published over 150 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and books. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico, her master’s degree from the University of Florida, and her Ph.D. from Harvard University.

A fellow of the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science, Garcia Coll has received awards from Tufts and Brown universities, the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD), the Latino Caucus (SRCD), Progreso Latino, and a Doctorate in Humane Letters, Honoris Causa from the Erikson Institute. She was the 2020 recipient of the Urie Bronfenbrenner Award for Lifetime Contribution to Developmental Psychology in the Service of Science and Society.

She has been on the governing boards of the United Way of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Community Foundation, SRCD, the Society for the Study of Human Development, and, currently, the Foundation for Child Development. She also served as a member and chair of the Young Scholars Program at the WT Grant Foundation for 11 years. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the McArthur Foundation, the WT Grant Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation.

This lecture is made possible through an endowment from the Arthur Sulzberger Family.