Putting a tough year behind us

With 2020 coming to a close, it’s safe to say most are ready to bid farewell to a year that has been unlike any other. But there are things worth recalling about the two major issues of 2020, as they will inform much of our focus in 2021.

These issues were global and all-consuming stories in 2020. COVID-19 was the first. I’ll start by touching on the second: the increased focus in the news of 2020 on racism. This issue was brought even more to the forefront by pandemic-related injustices experienced by minority groups and those with the least ability to protect themselves from the virus, and the continuing incidences of police violence against Indigenous and Black people here and in the United States. In Canada, the tragedy of the late Joyce Echaquan’s terrible, racist treatment in our own healthcare system must result in change that moves us toward eliminating racism and improving care for Indigenous people in Canada.

I have already stated my commitment and intent that our college will be a leader in medical education in Canada in antiracism and equity, diversity and inclusion. We have made some advances in recent years that I have touched on in previous blogs, and in recent months there have been more focused and intentional conversations about the changes needed between those most affected and our college leaders. But as I’ve said before, we have a lot more to do. Watch for more from me on this in the New Year.

The pandemic has affected all aspects of our work and lives since last March. The response of our college, university and health system in managing the many challenges and necessary changes in how we go about our daily lives was remarkable. It was not perfect, of course, but nothing is. Together, we were on a steep learning curve while rapidly implementing change across large and complex systems. I continue to be particularly impressed by how the people of our university and college came together, and continue working together, to support and protect one another during this frightening and uncertain time.

That said, even as we put 2020 behind us, we cannot put our vigilance and diligence with regard to safety and COVID-19 behind us yet. The numbers in Saskatchewan and across Canada are not good. We can see light at the end of this long tunnel in the form of vaccines that are beginning to reach us now—a remarkable discovery science achievement we also must recall and appreciate about 2020 and the worldwide response to this pandemic. (See this story of the researcher who gambled her life’s work on her belief in the potential of messenger RNA—such an incredible example of why we must fund and commit to discovery research.)

But it will be several months before we reach a true tipping point where we have beaten this virus. So the tenets of 2020 do not change now, nor will they until we are well into 2021, at the earliest. These reminders are taken verbatim from the Saskatchewan Health Authority website:

  • Wear a mask.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Maintain physical distancing.
  • Keep your bubble small.
  • Stay home if sick.
  • Get tested.
  • Follow public health orders.
  • Anticipate situations that put you at risk and avoid them.

Many of us are heading into a two-week break after this week. Let us remember our colleagues on the front lines of care over the holidays and do all in our power to ensure we don’t add to their work. We can do our part by (at a minimum) following all current and upcoming public health measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Stay safe and well over this holiday season.