Goodbye to a year of a pandemic, social distancing, racial unrest, economic crises, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, political polarizations, cyberattacks, and overwhelmed hospitals and schools. By October of 2020, if something wrong happened that day, a person would say, “Oh well. 2020.” How did we make it to January 2021?
In 2020, medical school education, graduate medical education, and continuing medical education adapted to the pandemic with virtual teaching and telehealth—a practice discussed in Drs Chandler, Beavers, and Hall’s July 2020 Pediatrics in Review In Brief, “Telemedicine in Pediatrics: Possibilities and Pitfalls.” Medical communities acknowledged racism and discrimination. Medical professionalism was brought to question. Dr. Stephen Ludwig’s May 2020 Pediatrics in Review article was prescient; his “Concern about Professionalism” touched on issues that came to the fore in the spring, summer, and fall of 2020. Physicians’ past attention to the business of medicine and consolidation of hospitals may have led to equipment shortages that affected the care of COVID-19 patients.
We all learned some lessons in 2020, perhaps the biggest one being we are social beings.
Social distancing took its toll. While it was good to virtually converse with other people whose smiles were not hidden by a mask, without the usual day-to-day personal interaction, how did we know if our colleagues were ably handling the stress of 2020?
In the summer of 2020, when protests over the lives of Black people spread, I wondered, as a residency director, if our first and only Black resident was doing okay in our program. Did that resident feel uncomfortable, alone, out of place? Seeking advice, I posed the question of how best to reach out to the resident to an associate dean of the medical school who also is Black. The associate dean, knowing I was a pediatrician, said I should approach the resident as a concerned parent. She reflected, “It was a hard day when I sat my own child down that first time and told her what not to say in public, what not do in public, how best to act to protect herself and our family. It was hard to say that this was the way of the world. Now, just showing you care helps.”
Imagine teaching your child the necessities of coping with racism just to survive. This should not be.
Education is a powerful tool for improving the world, and I thank all of you for continuing to teach, whether by writing, in-person lectures, or media. I also thank all of you for continuing to care for others in the face of the pandemic and for taking the time to learn how to provide even better care.
In 2020, the journal Pediatrics in Review continued to do well despite the pandemic’s demand on physicians’ time and resources. Manuscripts continued to come in, reviewers continued to evaluate submissions, readers downloaded PowerPoint slides and answered CME questions, and readership increased 8%. Everyone’s support of the journal helped the American Academy of Pediatrics continue its mission “to attain optimal physical, mental, and social health and well-being for all infants, children, adolescents, and young adults.”
To better the journal, this year we will introduce a “Chronic Conditions/Complex Care” feature and will tackle sociological issues that affect children. This month we provide an “Index of Suspicion” bonus issue online, thanks to the increased number of accepted case reports.
We still have the pandemic, social distancing, racial unrest, economic crises, and overwhelmed hospitals and schools. We probably will have further political polarizations and natural disasters in 2021 and beyond. But we survived 2020, and we still care for our children. As pediatricians entering this new year, we must learn more, teach more, act more, and become more.