Message from the Dean
Robert Hromas, MD, FACP
No one alive has experienced a global pandemic like COVID-19; it was completely unique to all of us. Everything we did was new and untested – some things worked and some did not. The pandemic was a frontier for us, and every step an exploration. While we learned many crucial lessons, there are two aspects to this frontier that I will highlight here. First, we as medical providers failed in our communication to our communities. Never in our wildest imagination did we ever consider that vaccinations, masking and the health care personnel that recommended them would become disparaged and despised by so many, especially when the illness and death rates in those who refused masking and the vaccine were many times higher. We found that physicians need media and public communication training just as much as their medical training, and that can save just as many lives.
Second, everyone is tired of the pandemic. It gets less and less attention in the media, but the virus does not get fatigued. I saw on a cable news station where 300 people a day are still dying in the U.S. from COVID-19. If this were at the beginning of the pandemic and not over two years into it, the nation would be horrified. Now this is met with a shrug. More importantly, long COVID affects over 20 million people in the U.S., and this will cripple their lives. When the history of the pandemic is written, SARS-CoV-2 could be the mosquito and long COVID could be malaria. We must have local and federal programs that systematically address long COVID, such that these patients do not become a permanent health underclass, where the public and, therefore, the health care industry ignore them. We have new educational modules now for our medical students on COVID-19, where none existed just a few years ago. Because we have found that medicine does not exist outside of its communities, these modules include far more than the molecular mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2, they include public health, communication methods, and the long-term effects of our decisions. As our alumni, you likely face the same issues in your practices, and we hope that we can help you address these issues just a little bit better every day.