Mega-country star Dolly Parton has done it all. She’s written over 3,000 songs, won every kind of award imaginable in numerous genres besides singing and songwriting, including television, movies, Broadway and just about anything else you can think of.

Her business and creative skills have amassed an empire worth an estimated half-billion dollars. But Dolly has a humanitarian heart at least as big as her fortune. Her Imagination Library project has already gifted over 147 million books to children around the world.

But due to her friendship with a doctor she met after a minor automobile accident in 2013, Parton ended up donating $1 million to Vanderbilt University for COVID research back on April 1. That donation has been credited with helping speed the much-heralded Moderna vaccine through its testing phase.

Parton’s years-long friendship with the doctor she met at the Vanderbilt University Medical Clinic in 2013, Dr. Naji Abumrad, led to discussions earlier this year where Parton asked him what was being done to combat the novel coronavirus. When Abumrad told her about the research being conducted by a team at Vanderbilt University, Parton decided to help.

Her $1 million donation may not seem much in an overall vaccine research effort by the drug company Moderna, which has already received $1 billion from the federal government via President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed. But Abumrad credits Parton’s gift with “expediting the science” behind the testing needed to validate Moderna’s vaccine, which has recently been reported to have nearly 95% effectiveness. “Without a doubt in my mind, her funding made the research toward the vaccine go 10 times faster than it would be without it,” Abumrad said.

“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,” said Mark Denison, the physician and researcher leading the team at Vanderbilt.

Parton’s fans are chiming in with their support for Parton’s philanthropy, including one who rewrote her signature song, “Jolene,” using the word “Vaccine” in its place. It’s a fitting tribute to an iconic figure who has proven herself to be more than simply an entertainer.

Since Moderna says it will be ready to ship the first supplies of the vaccine as soon as the Food and Drug Administration gives the go-ahead – which could be as early as December – you just might have to add “life-saver” to Parton’s resume.

Photo from REUTERS