For his work battling COVID-19 and his efforts to address racial health disparities, Business Insider has named UVA Health’s Taison Bell, MD, MBA, one of “30 Leaders Under 40 Changing Healthcare.”
Bell, 37, and the other honorees were chosen from hundreds of nominations “based on their potential to improve healthcare,” according to the online publication.
A specialist in critical care and pulmonary medicine, Bell has been caring for patients in UVA’s COVID-19 units during the pandemic. He has also helped lead a university- and Charlottesville-wide collaboration to bolster supplies of personal protective equipment, along with conducting clinical trials examining potential COVID-19 therapies.
Bell was instrumental in bring a clinical trial of remdesivir – now approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a COVID-19 treatment – to UVA. As Bell described to Business Insider, he was undeterred when UVA was not initially named a trial site. Instead, he contacted senior researchers from the National Institutes of Health who were running the trial and eventually earned approval for UVA to join. The resulting findings have significantly improved care for patients with the coronavirus.
“This was such an important moment for us because it was the first time we had a good headline in the fight against COVID-19,” Bell said. “This was the first drug proven in a randomized study to improve clinical outcomes, and I’m so glad to have played a part in bringing it to UVA.”
The global pandemic, which is disproportionately affecting patients of color, has also renewed attention on racial disparities in healthcare. One issue Bell is working to address: lower rates of screening among people of color for colorectal cancer, which is both highly common and very treatable if detected early.
Through a startup company, Owl Peak Labs, he co-founded with fellow Darden classmate Timothy Harvey, Bell and his colleagues are working to develop an easier at-home screening test. Improving screening rates is also personal for Bell. As a child, he saw his great-great-grandmother – who had never been screened – die from the disease.
“Colorectal cancer is a largely preventable disease but tens of thousands in the United States still die from it every year,” he said. “We’ve come so far already, but innovative technology is needed to diagnose it earlier in more people.”