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Meet the Seattle nurse appointed to Biden's COVID-19 advisory board

Nurse Jane Hopkins, who most recently worked at Harborview Medical Center and Snoqualmie Hospital, will help guide the nation's coronavirus response.

A Seattle nurse got a huge appointment last week – she was added to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s COVID-19 Advisory Board.

Her name is Jane Hopkins, and while she now has the ear of the president-elect, she almost missed the invitation. Biden’s coronavirus advisory panel originally had 12 people on it – top scientists, researchers and medical professionals – but no nurses, which is the largest group of health care professionals in the country, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

Hopkins was chosen last week and met with the board for the first time on Tuesday. She said that she’s looking forward to one day meeting with Biden and Harris personally.

She sat down with KING 5’s Steve Bunin to talk about her role on the board and how her experience impacts her expertise.

Steve Bunin: What do you see your role as on this advisory board?

Jane Hopkins: I see my role as bringing the voices of the workers, essential workers, that when we usually think about essential workers, we think about doctors and nurses. I believe that we need to be talking about, especially when we think about health care, the housekeepers cleaning the rooms, the dietary workers giving food to people, the x-ray workers, the techs, because, you know, they have to work as a team for us to give the best care possible to our patients and to make sure that this disease is manageable in the hospital.

Also, I am bringing the experience of being a Black woman, experience of being an immigrant worker to this committee. So I really feel that it's an essential part. Hearing these voices is so important for us to come up with a comprehensive plan.

Bunin: How does your background being born in Sierra Leone and training in the UK influence your expertise here?

Hopkins: I think the biggest way is in behavioral health, mental health. I'm really interested in making sure that we don't leave the marginalized behind – the people who are sick where you don't see the sickness. I think (my background) has made it easier for me to be able to be compassionate with people. And being an immigrant, I've been treated all kinds of different ways, and I know what it's like to come into a country and try to make a life for yourself. And all those experiences have made me who I am today. 

I loved working at the top trauma center in Seattle. That experience showed me that it doesn't matter who you are, that you deserve to have health care, and you deserve to be treated with respect. We can defeat this virus if we all do it together, and we all care about each other. That's gonna get us where we need to be.

Bunin: What will define this advisory board as a success?

Hopkins: To get rid of the virus. That would be definite success, and also making sure that we do it in an equitable way, that we're not leaving anybody behind. We have to think about everybody. This virus doesn't care whether you're Republican and Democrat or a health care worker. What really needs to happen is, we all need to work together, we all need to mask up. We all need to make sure that we are social distancing. We need to follow the science. That is so essential. I think success would be making sure that people are vaccinated and that people aren’t waking up every day thinking about it, thinking, "I might die from getting it."

Bunin: How did you even find out? Did you get an email from Kamala Harris? How did it work?

Hopkins: I actually got a call. But the funny thing is, I saw a Florida number, and I'm like, "I don't know that number. I'm not gonna answer that call." So, I didn't answer the call.  And then, you know, they left a message. So, I'm like, "Oh, my goodness. This that was an important call." And I probably should have answered it. So, I called them back, and they told me. 

I was so excited. It is such an honor. It is incredible, knowing my journey, you know, from where I was born to being here today, that in America, anybody can make it. You just have to work hard. And there are still things that we need to work on. 

And I think having more people of color on this advisory committee is bringing a different perspective to how we need to treat this virus. So, I'm very excited to be there to bring the voices of workers every day, because I hear it every day. People are tired, you know? They work so hard. We're short staffed, running out of PPE. It's all those things. And to be able to bring that perspective to this team at this level is incredible.