Dear colleagues and friends,
As we close the door on 2020, I look back on a year that none of us will ever forget. COVID-19 dramatically altered our lives and as a department we responded with determination, innovation, and courage to address many unprecedented COVID related challenges. I remain in awe of the ability of all our staff, faculty and trainees to rise to these challenges and develop ways to make our clinical, research and educational missions thrive despite the pandemic. Thank you for your continued perseverance and resolve throughout this very difficult year.
Reflecting on 2020, despite the many incredible stresses caused by COVID, racial violence and economic difficulties, we have accomplished a great deal. Our clinicians have continued to provide outstanding patient care, in person and by telehealth, and reorganized our clinical operations to safely care for COVID and non-COVID patients. We stood up a COVID respiratory clinic in a matter of days, implemented a COVID home health care program and developed a post COVID recovery clinic. Our hospital medicine faculty provided exceptional care for COVID patients on the floors and our pulmonary critical care docs provided outstanding care for COVID patients in the ICUs. Many of our subspecialist attendings, fellows and residents provided expert consultations for COVID patients and volunteered in the COVID ICUs.
Research is thriving with faculty continuing to pursue and receive numerous grants. Medicine faculty led the way in jump starting basic, clinical and translational COVID related research, making laboratories safe to resume in-person bench research and transitioning dry lab and other research activities online. Medicine faculty, fellows and staff provided essential clinical and translational research to establish novel COVID diagnostics, new COVID treatments, and vaccine trials. Our faculty also worked with investigators from multiple departments to establish COVID biospecimen repositories and coordinated recruitment of COVID patients in numerous clinical trials.
Our faculty worked in the Incident Command Center, designing policies and procedures to keep everyone safe, managing the COVID surge, opening new COVID floors and COVID ICUs, obtaining and distributing PPE, expanding and overseeing occupational health for COVID related symptom evaluation and testing, and developing and implementing COVID vaccine distribution sites for thousands of health care workers. Our faculty, trainees and staff served as essential volunteers in the COVID vaccine sites to accelerate vaccinations for our COVID facing and patient facing health care workers across BJC and WUSM. And, many faculty, staff and trainees worked numerous extra hours and shifts during the pandemic.
Our educational endeavors continued to grow and improve despite COVID. We developed creative ways to train and mentor medical students, residents, and fellows who will become future leaders in academic medicine, clinical practice, and scientific careers. We recently completed the first successful online fellow recruitment season and we look forward to welcoming our new fellows in 2021. Our residency recruitment season is still in full swing and going well. Our entire community came together this year and moved mountains to continue our tripartite mission. For this, I am truly grateful and proud to be part of this Department of Medicine team.
There is still much to do in our battle against COVID-19, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There are two FDA approved COVID vaccines and several more in late stage trials that are expected to be FDA approved in the near future. We have vaccinated more than 10,000 COVID facing and patient facing health care workers at BJC/WUSM in a matter of days. The remainder of the patient facing health care workers under age 40 will be vaccinated soon. Following vaccination of our patient facing health care workers, COVID vaccinations will focus on nursing home patients and long term care workers, essential workers and those over 75. We will work closely with BJC and the state health department to continue vaccinating people as determined by CDC and state guidelines. Ongoing vaccination of all of our employees and patients will be critical to controlling this pandemic. We will continue to work hard to facilitate access to vaccines, perform discovery research, care for patients, and provide outstanding training and education for our pre and postdoctoral trainees.
We will all still need to remain vigilant, wear masks and practice social distancing for months to come. Life will not get back to normal for a while. We will need to have a substantial proportion of our region, country and the world vaccinated before we can relax COVID precautions. Until then, please stay safe, wear a mask and support one another. Please continue to lean in, raise your spirits and keep focused on maintaining the health and well-being of yourself, your families, friends and your colleagues. We are determined to beat COVID and come back even stronger as we get through this pandemic together.
Thank you so much for your exceptional dedication, service to patients and the community and the support you provide to help us all keep moving forward. I am very grateful to each and every one of you.
Best wishes for a happy, healthy new year. 2021 will be much better.
Vicky Fraser, MD
Chair, Department of Medicine