Morehouse School of Medicine’s "Danforth Dialogues" Features Renowned NIH Research Scientist Dr. Barney Graham

MSM President and CEO Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice and Dr. Graham
reveal the fascinating journey behind the development of the COVID-19 Vaccine.

Danforth Dialogues

ATLANTA – February 6, 2023 – Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) today published the latest edition of its "Danforth Dialogues" podcast, featuring a conversation between MSM’s President and CEO Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice and renowned former National Institutes of Health (NIH) researcher and now MSM faculty member, Dr. Barney Graham.

“If you have been keeping up with the news about RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) or COVID-19, there is a very good chance you may have heard of Dr. Graham because he has been one of the medical experts providing information about RSV,” said Dr. Montgomery Rice. “Dr. Graham was the deputy director of the NIH Vaccine Institute where he guided the work on both the COVID-19 mRNA and RSV vaccines. After a 40-year public health career, he retired last year and we were fortunate to entice him to join our faculty as senior advisor, global health equity, clinical trials, physician, immunologist, virologist.”

A graduate of the University of Kansas School of Medicine, Dr. Graham and Dr. Montgomery Rice traced the incredible story of the development of the highly effective COVID-19 mRNA that began when Dr. Graham was doing RSV research as a graduate student at Vanderbilt University in the 1980s where he helped to set up the first HIV clinical trial programs, which later led him to be recruited to head a similar effort at NIH.

He continued his RSV research at NIH for more than 20 years, which led to an additional focus on coronaviruses as the NIH, after helping to lead the response to the SARS and MERS viruses, began to investigate how to develop a more comprehensive approach to potential pandemics. “A lot of things came together between 2014 and 2016 in our thinking on how to be more proactively prepared for a pandemic threat,” Dr. Graham said. His team at NIH got approval to conduct a major RSV clinical trial in 2020, but after the emergence of COVID-19 in China early that year, they switched to an mRNA Covid vaccine trial leveraging years of prior coronavirus research.

“We had been dedicated to the mission of showing how new technology gave us the opportunity to go faster and have a better vaccine available when we needed it,” he said. “mRNA is like cell phones jumping two generations of laying cable in the ground technology.”  

The pandemic also spurred Dr. Graham to focus this part of his career on vaccine equity leading him to join Morehouse School of Medicine. “Everybody understands that it wasn’t just a viral pandemic; it was a social justice pandemic and a mental health pandemic,” he said. “The thing that has been so painful during that two-year period is the failure to achieve the uptake of the vaccine in all of the places that needed the vaccine…Morehouse is the champion of (health) equity; it’s in our mission statement.” 

Launched earlier this year, Danforth Dialogues focuses on the leadership lessons from the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic and their broader implication for society. Named after the

historic Danforth Chapel on the Morehouse College campus, the podcast series features a cross-section of guests and topics.

To hear this edition of the podcast, click here. For more information about the Danforth Dialogues leadership series, click here.

To listen and subscribe to the Danforth Dialogues podcast, click here.

For more information about Morehouse School of Medicine, please visit

About Morehouse School of Medicine

Founded in 1975, Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) is among the nation's leading educators of primary care physicians, biomedical scientists, and public health professionals. An independent and private historically-Black medical school, MSM was recognized by the Annals of Internal Medicine as the nation's number one medical school in fulfilling a social mission—the creation and advancement of health equity. Morehouse School of Medicine's faculty and alumni are noted for excellence in teaching, research, and public policy, as well as exceptional patient care. MSM is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award doctoral and master's degrees. To learn more about programs and donate today, please visit or call 404-752-1500.


Jamille Bradfield
Morehouse School of Medicine