“With 20/20 hindsight we can begin afresh in 2021. I predict that few of us will still use 2020 any longer when we write out the date!”
The quote above is from my son, but I believe most of us feel the same way about 2020. The events of last year taught us to be nimble, expect the unexpected, and try to learn from the setbacks, illnesses, pain and suffering all around us—within our families, our community and our coworkers.
The best way to manage 2021 is similar to how we managed last year—with compassion bonded to determination. For all of us in healthcare, the world’s eyes are upon us for truth, accurate predictions, patience, caution and diligence—to use our skills to make the world a better place.
Here is what’s on my mind for 2021 …
It is important to remember that our medical community is remarkably resilient and capable. The list of your accomplishments this past year was truly astonishing and set high expectations for this year. When we care for patients, they get better more often than not; when we discover, our publications are accepted; when we submit grants, they are well received and often funded. And through it all, these breakthroughs and patient care improve health for all of us.
An ever-increasing number of us turned to study serious diseases in 2020: COVID, of course, but also consequential community ills such as poverty and disparities. We see climate change as a health hazard. We realize that poverty underlies health risks as important as any other factor. Now is the time to address racism as a mediator of medical illness that must be eliminated. And each of these community factors infiltrates our most intense efforts to understand fundamental protein chemistry, genomic determinants and cellular pathways. Our basic discoveries matter less if we do not appreciate how they are affected by social determinants of health.
Sometime this year, we will be able to successfully manage COVID. The virus spread will slow, the vaccine will be widely available, and the pandemic will dissipate into an episodic infection which will modulate our new lifestyle—and we will reconvene.
It is time to take charge and do more than react to the hand we have been dealt. To move us forward, our basic science departments have outlined a strategic plan to guide the school through the coming years. This draft will be discussed with the faculty and staff at large in a series of town halls in the next month or two, as well as among the clinical departments across our affiliate hospitals.
We will distribute the draft Strategic Plan next week and look forward to lively discussions and revisions. This plan will direct our attention toward education and research, help us focus our community, and enable our transdisciplinary efforts, cross-institutional collaboration and investments.
But to make it work, we need your input. Please share your ideas and comments by sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to your guidance as we pull together in 2021, recover what we have lost, and build a sustainable future together.
Welcome to 2021. I look forward to your successes, your joy and your excitement!
Stan Gerson, MD
Interim Dean, School of Medicine
Director, Case Comprehensive Cancer Center
Director, National Center for Regenerative Medicine