Public Health

A year in review: Physician leaders look back on 2021


AMA's Moving Medicine video series amplifies physician voices and highlights developments and achievements throughout medicine.



It’s difficult to put into words all that our nation’s physicians have experienced this past year. In today’s special end-of-year episode of Moving Medicine, physicians answer three questions and tell their own stories of 2021 ... in their words.

Moving Medicine will be back with a new episode on Jan. 3, 2022. 

Moving Medicine video series

AMA's Moving Medicine video series amplifies physician voices and highlights developments and achievements throughout medicine.

Unger: Hello, this is the American Medical Association's Moving Medicine video and podcast. I'm Todd Unger, AMA's chief experience officer in Chicago. Today we're bringing you a special end of the year feature. It's going to be our last episode of 2021, we're going to see you again with a new episode on January 3, 2022.

It's been an honor and a privilege to bring you physician and expert voices throughout the year on both our Moving Medicine and COVID update channels. As we look back on 2021, it's difficult to put into words what all of our physicians have experienced in this past year. They've dealt with continued uncertainties about the pandemic, the distribution of lifesaving vaccines, only to be followed by rampant misinformation, equity issues in medicine and society, social and physical isolation burnout. And that was just the beginning.

For this episode, we asked physicians to answer three questions to help capture 2021. We thought it was best to let physicians tell their own story, in their words. Here's what they had to say.

The first question that we asked physicians was, what was your key piece of learning or advice that you'd give from the past year?

Dr. Natalia Solenkova: Our health is the most important thing that we have.

Dr. Jesse Rafel: Stay true to your why.

Dr. Aaron Carroll: That we have to get more comfortable with the fact that we have to change our minds sometimes or admit that perhaps we were mistaken and be okay with that.

Dr. Candise Johnson: Maintain wellness.

Dr. John Andrews: Take a deep breath.

Dr. Jack Resneck Jr.: Flexibility. All of us have had to learn a lot of flexibility in this last year and a half.

Dr. Marcia Nelson: Be transparent.

Dr. Aletha Maybank: Offering grace for those who we're working with and grace for ourselves.

Dr. John Whyte: Be patient.

Dr. Audiey Kao: Effective communication is the solution or part of the solution for every human problem and this pandemic year has only reinforced that belief.

Dr. Omar Z. Maniya: The future is not certain.

Dr. Ricardo Correa: Science is important in medicine.

Dr. Bechara Choucair: We have an amazing, amazing public health workforce in this country and a health care workforce, and I'm so grateful for their dedication, their support and their commitment over the last 20 months of this pandemic.

Dr. Michael Anderson: Prior preparation with emergency preparedness.

Dr. Hilary Fairbrother: The one piece of advice I have is get vaccinated.

Dr. Paul Offit: Respect this virus. I think many of us think that we're invulnerable, they think this virus is going to bounce right off of us or bounce off of our children. It's not true. I mean, I'd like to think enough of us now have been touched by the horror of this particular virus that we would be sobered by it but unfortunately that's not true for many people.

Dr. Robert Hart: Transparency in communication.

Dr. Adnan Munkarah: We have demonstrated last year that, being together, we were able to expedite the deployment of vaccines much faster than we ever have seen in the history of medicine.

Unger: The second question was, if you could sum up this past year in one or two words, what would they be?

Dr. Jesse Rafel: Challenging, rewarding.

Dr. Aaron Carroll: Everything is terrible. Is that too dark?

Dr. Candise Johnson: Whirlwind and growth.

Dr. John Andrews: Indoors and Zoom.

Dr. Jack Resneck Jr.: Gratitude. I have never been prouder, as I watched my colleagues around the country run towards the fire and take care of patients under difficult circumstances.

Dr. Marcia Nelson: Come together.

Dr. Aletha Maybank: Perseverance.

Dr. John Whyte: Unpredictable.

Dr. Audiey Kao: Resilient and grateful.

Dr. Omar Z. Maniya: Crazy.

Dr. Ricardo Correa: There is hope for the future.

Dr. Bechara Choucair: Just gratitude.

Dr. Michael Anderson: Resilience, focusing on not only providing care but also on our employees, to help them through these surges that we've had.

Dr. Hilary Fairbrother: Seclusion and inclusion.

Dr. Paul Offit: Devastating.

Dr. Robert Hart: Incredibly challenging.

Dr. Adnan Munkarah: Hope and disappointment. Hope because as we entered the year, we know that we have a vaccine that could put the pandemic behind us. Disappointment that we, unfortunately, turned a health care issue into a political debate.

Unger: The final question we asked was, where do you see the biggest opportunities in 2022?

Dr. Bechara Choucair: We have to continue to do everything we can to get those who are unvaccinated to get them vaccinated. This is extremely important for us to be able to put this pandemic behind us.

Dr. Jesse Rafel: Reconnection, new connections, coming together as a community.

Dr. Aaron Carroll: To recognize that the massive investment in public health is not only necessary but has been necessary and we need to make sure we fix that in the future.

Dr. Candise Johnson: Learning and gaining confidence.

Dr. John Andrews: I think the biggest opportunities are in adapting to the virtual environment in the residency selection, and frankly, in the residency education process.

Dr. Jack Resneck Jr.: We got a lot of opportunities for disruptive innovation.

Dr. Marcia Nelson: Learning how to be normal again.

Dr. Aletha Maybank: To help support making sure that folks are getting to the point of understanding clearly the root causes of the inequities but also getting to the point of advocacy and accountability.

Dr. John Whyte: Self-care. Patients are going to be much more engaged in their care, they're going to be much more focused on using apps and digital tools, and empowering themselves with information because they're going to make their health a bigger priority.

Dr. Audiey Kao: 2022 marks the 175th year since AMA's founding in 1847. Therefore, this anniversary year provides a great opportunity for the AMA and the medical profession to reflect on its past, the good and the bad. Because understanding our history is essential if we are to build a healthy future for all.

Dr. Omar Z. Maniya: Telemedicine.

Dr. Ricardo Correa: Research and education.

Dr. Michael Anderson: Improving access to care, whether it's virtual care or hospital at home, we have to find ways to get care out to where our communities are.

Dr. Paul Offit: I think the biggest opportunity is to impress upon people how amazing vaccines are. A virus that was isolated and sequenced in January of last year, in 11 months, we had two large clinical trials, using a novel technology, that showed this vaccine was remarkably safe and effective. I don't think there is a scientist on this planet that would've ever imagined that was true. I think it is the greatest medical achievement in my lifetime.

Dr. Robert Hart: Getting people vaccinated and getting some semblance of normalcy with our workforce. All the other health care problems have not gone away. I'm very hopeful that we can find ways to get people back into health care, to continue the work that we're doing, taking care of everything else, in addition to COVID.

Dr. Adnan Munkarah: There are so many things for us in health care to achieve. There are disparities that have been highlighted more than we have ever seen before.

Dr. Hilary Fairbrother: Giving all my friends who I haven't seen in two years a great big hug.

Unger: That concludes our special end of the year feature. From all of us at the AMA, have a safe and healthy holiday. Take care and we'll be back with you in 2022.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed in this video are those of the participants and/or do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.

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