Reaching the Summit: Leadership Lessons from Historical Greats – Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett

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Image provided by Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett via Wikipedia

At Summit we believe that lessons from great leaders can help shine a light on leadership for the future.

In continuation of Women’s History Month and National Doctor’s Day, we highlight Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett. Dr. Corbett is a viral immunologist that helped pave the way for the creation of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Earning her Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2014, Dr. Corbett was quickly appointed to the VRC, where she is currently leading the Coronavirus Team.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases wrote that Corbett has “been central to the development of the Moderna mRNA vaccine and the Eli Lilly therapeutic monoclonal antibody that were first to enter clinical trials in the U.S.” and that “her work will have a substantial impact on ending the worst respiratory-disease pandemic in more than 100 years.”

Dr. Corbett began her leadership career at the young age of 20, where she educated youth on sexually transmitted diseases. She’s also helped gain the trust of many within the Black community in regard to the safety and necessity of vaccinations.

Dr. Corbett has always had high goals. For instance, when Dr. Barney Graham, a vaccine and disease specialist, met her 12 years ago as an undergraduate student doing summer work at the NIH’s Vaccine Research Center. When asked what she ultimately wanted to do with her life she reapplied “I want your job,” Graham recalls. “From the very beginning, she was really pretty old in her aspirations.”

Dr. Corbett offers us the reminder that if you dream it you can do it. Being a successful leader can be as easy as understanding your goals and figuring out how to reach the summit.


  • Time 100 List-Innovators by Time’s (2021)
  • “Dr. Kizzy Corbett Day” in Orange County, North Carolina for Covid-19 Vaccine help
  • Third Pan American Dengue Research Network Meeting Travel Award (2013)


“I would say that my role as a scientist is really about my passion and purpose for the world and for giving back to the world.”

“If you can unwind and be true to who you are, it helps to reckon with things. My team is responding to the world’s most devastating global pandemic in the last hundred years. And so, there’s something to be said about knowing who you are.”


Blanco, Lydia. “Prior to COVID-19, Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett Was Formulating Success as a Black Woman in Science.” Black Enterprise, Black Enterprise, 3 Apr. 2020,

Ross, Janell. “Working on Coronavirus Vaccine Trials, Kizzmekia Corbett Is ‘Not Your Average’ Scientist.”, NBCUniversal News Group, 13 Apr. 2020,