This month marks the end of my first full calendar year as SHM CEO. Over the years, I have made it a habit to take time to reflect during the month of December, assessing the previous year by reviewing what went well and what could have gone better, and how I can grow and change to meet the needs of future challenges. This reflection sets the stage for my personal and professional “New Year” goals.
This year, 2021, is certainly a year deserving of reflection, and I believe 2022 (and beyond) will need ambitious goals made by dedicated leaders, hospitalists included. Here are my thoughts on what went well in 2021 and what I wish went better – from our greater society to our specialty, to SHM.
Society (as in the larger society)
What went well: Vaccines
There is a lot to be impressed with in 2021, and for me, at the top of that list are the COVID-19 vaccines. I realize the research for mRNA vaccines started more than 20 years ago, and the most successful mRNA vaccine companies have been around for more than a decade, but to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine in less than a year is still just incredible. To take a disease with a 2% mortality rate for someone like myself and effectively reduce that to near zero is something historians will be writing about for years to come.
What I wish went better: Open dialogue
I can’t remember when we stopped listening to each other, and by that, I mean listening to those who do not think exactly like ourselves. As a kid, I was taught to be careful about discussing topics at social events that could go sideways. That usually involved politics, money, or strong beliefs, but wow – now, that list is much longer. Talking about the weather used to be safe, but not anymore. If I were to show pictures of the recent flooding in Annapolis? There would almost certainly be a debate about climate change. At least we can agree on Ted Lasso as a safe topic.
What went well: Hospitalists are vital
There are many, many professions that deserve “hero” status for their part in taming this pandemic: nurses, doctors, emergency medical services, physical therapists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, administrators, and more. But in the doctor category, hospitalists are at the top. Along with our emergency department and intensivist colleagues, hospitalists are one of the pillars of the inpatient response to COVID. More than 3.2 million COVID-19 hospitalizations have occurred, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with numerous state dashboards showing three-quarters of those are cared for on general medical wards, the domain of hospitalists (for example, see my own state of Maryland’s COVID-19 dashboard: https://coronavirus.maryland.gov).
We’ve always had “two patients” – the patient in the bed and the health care system. Many hospitalists have helped their institutions by building COVID care teams, COVID wards, or in the case of Dr. Mindy Kantsiper, building an entire COVID field hospital in a convention center. Without hospitalists, both patients and the system that serves them would have fared much worse in this pandemic. Hospitalists are vital to patients and the health care system. The end. Period. End of story.