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Drs. Sally Goza and Lee Beers discuss the COVID-19 pandemic during a mini-documentary.

Pediatricians reflect on unique, historic roles during COVID-19 pandemic

October 22, 2023

A new documentary-style video that explores lessons learned during and after the COVID-19 pandemic will debut during the AAP National Conference & Exhibition in Washington, D.C.

Reflections on COVID-19: Living and Learning in a Pandemic,” which will be featured in a multimedia presentation on the web, captures the experiences of AAP members during the pandemic and examines the challenges clinicians and families continue to face.

A portion of the video will be shown during Monday’s plenary session, which begins at 10:30 a.m. EDT in Ballroom AB at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

“There are children who missed a lot of school, and they’re behind. To get them caught up is hard,” AAP Past President Sara “Sally” H. Goza, M.D., FAAP (2020), said in the video. “There are children who suffered more mental health issues, especially with family loss. … Children are better than they were in 2020 and 2021, but we still have a long way to go.”

Leaders also describe the role the AAP played in advocating for children and pediatricians, including ensuring members received federal relief funds to keep their doors open, tracking the weekly number of new child COVID cases and declaring a national emergency in children’s mental health with the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Association.

The project is funded by the AAP Friends of Children Fund. Leaders plan to use the lessons learned to prepare for future pandemics or disasters.

“We say all the time that children are not small adults. You cannot fit children and families into an adult system,” AAP CEO/Executive Vice President Mark Del Monte, J.D., said. “… As we think about future pandemics or respiratory viruses, we need to remember we have to start with the children. If we get it right for children and families at the beginning, we’ll get it right for everybody else.”

In the 10-minute video, AAP leaders past and present share stories about the early days of the pandemic, from relying on infectious disease experts for guidance and navigating rapidly changing protocols to the approval and administration of vaccines.

“What a miracle these vaccines were,” said AAP Past President Moira A. Szilagyi, M.D., Ph.D., FAAP (2022). “The mRNA technology had been in development for 40 years, and this just happened to be available and ready to go when the pandemic hit. We were so fortunate. I say it’s a miracle, which makes it sound like magic, but it was really a miracle of timing that it was ready to go.”

While life largely has returned to normal, the effects of the pandemic are not forgotten. Many children and their clinicians continue to suffer from mental health issues related to disruptions caused by COVID-19, and pediatricians and the AAP stand ready for future challenges.

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