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Country music star Dolly Parton is opening her heart and her wallet to fund coronavirus research. Here's how her net worth is helping.

Dolly Parton is a saint: How she’s using her net worth to fight coronavirus

You know her for her country hits like “Jolene”, her fierce, no-nonsense attitude, and her sparkling fashion style. What about helping to eliminate one of the deadliest pandemics the world has ever faced? Well, you can just add that to the list of cool things about country music star Dolly Parton.

Yep, you heard it right. In April, less than a month after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, Dolly Parton donated a hefty sum of $1 million to coronavirus research at Vanderbilt University. Parton chose to give to the school in honor of her friend Dr. Naji Abumrad, a professor of surgery. 

At the time of her donation, there were just over 200,000 COVID cases in the U.S. Now, over 248,000 Americans have died, and there have been at least 11.2 million cases. Let’s take a look at how Dolly Parton’s donation and calls to action have helped fund research to stop this pandemic. 

Dolly Parton’s crusade against COVID

Not only did Parton donate herself, but she urged fans to do the same. Her call to action raised almost $100,000 for COVID research.  

In an Instagram post in April, Dolly Parton wrote: “My longtime friend Dr. Naji Abumrad, who’s been involved in research at Vanderbilt for many years, informed me that they were making some exciting advancements towards research of the coronavirus for a cure. I am making a donation of $1 million to Vanderbilt towards that research and to encourage people that can afford it to make donations.” 

On NBC’s Today Show, Dolly Parton elaborated on her need to give. “I felt like this was the time for me to open my heart and my hand, and try to help,” she said. 

Vanderbilt’s president & CEO Jeff Balser declared Dolly Parton’s “amazing generosity is a source of inspiration. She cares so much about helping others and we are very grateful for her ongoing support. These funds will help us complete promising research that can benefit millions in their battle with the virus.”

Dolly Parton helped fund a COVID vaccine

Dolly Parton’s donation is significant in itself, but what’s even cooler is that it has recently been revealed that this money helped fund Moderna’s COVID vaccine. This week, the vaccine boasted a success rate of 94.5%. Parton is listed as a sponsor in the preliminary report on the vaccine, alongside the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, headed by Dr. Fauci himself, and Emory University. 

According to Dr. Fauci, vaccines could be put into action as soon as December, with an emphasis on reaching essential workers, the elderly, and those with underlying medical conditions first. There are many steps to making a vaccine widely accessible, so a vaccine won’t likely be available to the masses until mid to late 2021. However, it’s a promising start, especially as we brace ourselves for a likely dark & trying winter.

COVID treatment funding

While the vaccine is on everyone’s minds this week, Dolly Parton’s donation also went to fund a convalescent plasma study & research. The study involves antibody therapies used to treat people who are battling COVID. Vanderbilt University Medical Center spokesperson John Howser explained “her gift provided support for a pilot convalescent plasma study that one of our researchers was able to successfully complete.”

“Funds from Dolly (Parton)’s gift are also supporting very promising research into monoclonal antibodies that act as a temporary vaccine for COVID,” he continued. “Two of these antibodies are now being tested by a global pharmaceutical firm.” Indeed, the plasma pilot showed enough promise for the National Institutes of Health to offer an additional $34 million to conduct a national, multi-site clinical plasma trial.


This isn’t the first example of Dolly Parton using her money for the greater good. Her Imagination Library gives free books to children from when they are born until they start school. If there’s one thing we’ve learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that we need to stick together and help each other in any way we can. And we can start by following Dolly Parton’s lead of compassion. 

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