Editor's note: For more coverage of the 2021 AAP National Conference & Exhibition, visit https://www.aappublications.org/news/2021/08/18/nationalconference2021.
“You are the face of hope and a force for good.”
That is how AAP President Lee Savio Beers, M.D., FAAP, thanked her “AAP family” during the President’s Address Saturday at the Virtual National Conference.
After being introduced by her children, Charlotte and Jonah, Dr. Beers acknowledged the ups and downs, challenges and successes throughout the pandemic, with a hopeful note to the future.
“Together we have matched the magnitude of the moment with the scope and scale of our response,” she said. “We are one body, reliant on our expertise — and one another — as we save lives, improve health outcomes, advance racial justice and work to mitigate COVID-19’s long-term health and societal impacts on a generation of children.”
Dr. Beers described how the AAP and member volunteers have stepped up to track and report child COVID cases, issue interim guidance on numerous pandemic-related issues, hold biweekly town halls, and engage in payer advocacy to support COVID-related care. Dozens of grants for COVID-19 work have been received.
Commending members for their continued advocacy to protect children from COVID-19 and attend to their mental health and development, Dr. Beers said: “You inspire me each day…”
Messaging from the AAP and its members has been shared widely as leaders continue to get the word out about vaccines, safe schools, mental health, children’s rights and social and racial inequities. Broadcast and print outlets have cited Dr. Beers more than 4,000 times.
But battling the rise of misinformation has made this year more challenging than last, as pediatricians face hostility for recommending vaccines for adolescents and universal masking in schools.
Despite these unpleasant encounters, there are rewards to be relished.
“Sometimes, all it takes is that one parent who kindly and sincerely thanks us for all we do, or the 12-year-old who comes in on their birthday for a COVID-19 vaccine because they couldn’t wait to remind us that our efforts do make a difference,” she said.
The AAP has been a leading voice of science and reason, entering into partnerships and trainings and launching campaigns to improve communications and behavior around vaccination.
Inequities are being addressed at all levels, a problem worsened and highlighted by the pandemic, especially for Black and Hispanic children and families. The AAP Equity Agenda Work Plan is designed to help move the Academy and pediatrics to a more equitable future, including encouraging a career path for those under-represented in medicine.
“What’s next is up to us,” Dr. Beers said. “The good news is there’s real interest in the country and our medical community to close the gaps and expand opportunity for all and to rid our systems and institutions of systemic racism and inequities.”
Solving the mental health crisis also is a priority, with the rise in depression and anxiety complicated by lack of access to services. The AAP hosted a suicide summit and is working with national groups on a prevention action plan to be rolled out in December. The AAP continues to advocate for funding for telehealth and other training, services and programs.
Dr. Beers expressed deep concern over the emotional toll of the pandemic on the pediatric workforce — the suffering of patients, long hours, insufficient resources, administrative burdens — but concluded with a note of hopefulness.
“In these moments, please know you have a place to go. The Academy is your home, your family, your safe place — where you can come to recharge, reconnect,” she said.
“Remember why you became a pediatric physician and how your work changes the lives of the children and families you serve — and some you’ll never know.”