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The full story behind Dolly Parton’s $1m Covid vaccine donation

Naji Abumrad tells The Independent: ‘She is probably one of the smartest and most giving human beings I have ever met’

Rachel Brodsky
Los Angeles
Thursday 19 November 2020 13:29 GMT
Dolly Parton on donating to covid-19 vaccine
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In October of 2013, country superstar Dolly Parton was in a car accident in Nashville after the driver of an SUV reportedly failed to yield. 

Parton's injuries were minor ("just a little tired and sore," she tweeted to fans at the time), but the incident did eventually lead to a friendship with one of her doctors who oversaw her care: Vanderbilt University Medical Center physician and professor of surgery Naji Abumrad. 

Because of their relationship, reports the Washington Post, Parton contributed a $1 million (£756,000) donation, made in Abumrad’s name, to Vanderbilt for coronavirus research back in April. 

From there, the work supported by the “Dolly Parton Research Fund” has contributed to Moderna’s 94.5 per cent effective Covid-19 vaccine.

"Her money helped us develop the test that we used to first show that the Moderna vaccine was giving people a good immune response that might protect them," Vanderbilt biologist Dr Mark Denison told The New York Times.

Read More: Dolly Parton credited with helping to ‘cure coronavirus’ after donating $1m to scientists working on Moderna vaccine trials

"I'm just happy that anything I do can help somebody else, and when I donated the money to the Covid fund, I just wanted it to do good," Parton told NBC’s Today show on Tuesday. "Evidently, it is. Let's just hope we find a cure real soon."

Speaking to The Independent, Dr Abumrad had nothing but praise for Parton, saying, “This lady has a terribly inquisitive mind." 

Divulging the backstory around how Parton came to donate such a large sum of money to Covid research, Abumrad continued: "I told her about the exciting science done by investigators at Vanderbilt, and much to my surprise—because I didn’t ask her to contribute—a few days later, she contributed $1 million. That was immediately put to incredible use by Vanderbilt, primarily to support all Covid-related research." 

Going into deeper detail around their unique friendship, Dr Abumrad expounded on his and Parton’s “mutual respect and admiration” for one another. "She is probably one of the smartest and most giving human beings I have ever met.

Read More: Dolly Parton adds pandemic hero to list of accomplishments

No doubt Parton has learned a great deal from the medical expert (Dr Abumrad speaks admiringly about the singer’s interest in science), but what has he learned from her?

“I’ve attended several of her concerts when she was touring," he continued. “It doesn’t matter who the people in the crowd are — different colours, different regions of the world, different sects. You name it. It’s a mélange of people with — I bet my life — different political affiliations. And yet, when they are listening to her, she is mesmerising everybody. And you get the feeling that she is someone who can unite people. That is not something you see often in life. ”

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