Dear Colleagues-Friends,

It is with mixed emotions that I reflect upon the past year as yesterday we marked 12 months since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. This has been a time of intense personal sadness and grief as we have lost family members, friends and colleagues to the unfortunate ravages of this new disease. In addition to the lives lost, we mourn other losses, such as the ability to gather and be together, to move freely about our lives and travel, and our children’s ability to attend school. We also have lived with the fear of the unknown and the stress and anxiety of trying to keep ourselves, our loved ones and our community safe.

The pandemic has further exposed long-standing health inequities and racial divides in our society, including the stigmatization of those who identify as Asian and Pacific Islanders. As we continue to rebuild as a community, we must be careful to acknowledge and call out the underlying prejudices and stereotypes that perpetuate divisive discourse about the origins and spread of the pandemic and the discrimination that has occurred as a result. With your help, we will work to rid discrimination and the systems that foster it from our community.

COVID-19 has reminded us poignantly of how fleeting life is and how much we should cherish both simple moments and life’s big transitions. With these reminders comes a greater appreciation of human contact, social interactions and being able to laugh and enjoy humorous moments – the sheer joy of being with one another. We’ve also learned the power of human resilience that we have all had to reach deep and bring to the forefront and which you’ve so admirably shown. We are also grateful for the progress and hope on the horizon as with the vaccines we may be able to start transitioning through this pandemic.

While there will still be challenges ahead in the weeks and months to come, there are opportunities ahead of us as well. In the clinical sphere, we will continue the telehealth that has served our patients so well. We have found and made, some intentional, some serendipitous, improvements in our processes. We are grateful for the science that continues to translate from the bench to the bedside to help us cure diseases and improve health. There also is greater interest in medicine and health sciences, which will translate in to having some terrific trainees in the coming years. And, we have immense pride in our current trainees who have gained in leadership skills and resiliency through their experiences with this pandemic.

As this unusual year draws to a close, please take some time to reflect, express gratitude to those around you and allow yourself to hope and plan for better days ahead. Thank you for all you have done and all we will do together.

With greatest respect and gratitude,

Pter F. Buckley, M.D.; Dean, VCU School of Medicine; Executive vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System