Nov. 4, 2020
Dear Members of the Baylor College of Medicine Community,
I had the honor this week of participating in the White Coat Ceremony for Baylor’s new medical school class. This is a relatively new tradition, as traditions go, of close to 30 years. Students don their white coats for the first time, a symbolic entrance into the medical profession. Our pandemic version of the ceremony was largely virtual, engineered to be “COVID safe.” Although I prefer the pre-COVID face-to-face tactile version, it was still full of meaning. During the event, it struck me how important it is to maintain our traditions and milestones during these challenging times. It also caused me to slow down for a few moments of introspection and reflection.
If you have been reading these messages over the past three weeks, you will note a certain monotony. Europe and much of the U.S. are again experiencing major surges, in many cases surpassing the experience of earlier in the year. In a distinct shift, the growth seems to be disproportionately impacting smaller, rural communities in the U.S. In urban Houston and surrounding communities, our numbers continue to inch up. New daily case rates continue to rise slowly (last week averaging 643 per day, compared with 394 one month prior). Hospitalizations are rising as well, but more slowly. It feels like our community is a patient with a difficult to treat cancer – our scan this week shows the tumor is about the same size. We are grateful it is not growing quickly, but anxious and disappointed it is still there.
Returning to the White Coat Ceremony, although my message was directed to the new students, for me it has broader applicability to our College community.
Clearly, our strength and resilience come from the talented and committed people around us. There are many. Front line clinicians whose contribution is obvious. Clinicians across the organization who keep our affiliates operating – institutions always critical, but now indispensable to the community. The Baylor Medicine practice, which in the midst of a global pandemic, managed to increase clinical volumes and improve patient satisfaction. Baylor’s already highly productive researchers who became even more productive in the past several months, and many of whom have added significantly to our fundamental understanding of the pandemic. Our learners, who are engaged in a novel and evolving educational experience, which they did not expect, but have embraced. Our educators, who made this experience a great one. Administrative staff, supply chain, IT, HR, legal, security, support staff all of whom embraced the challenges posed by doing their jobs – and doing them well – in this new environment.
So we await our next scan. Will our shared societal tumor continue to be relatively stable or begin to spread more rapidly? Honestly, I do not believe we will escape a significant winter surge. However, I suspect enough people in our community have embraced good viral control practices that we will not return to our July peak levels. I wish I had a reliable crystal ball, but no one does.
Regardless of what the future brings – stability or return to crisis – I am confident the Baylor College of Medicine will do whatever is necessary to take care of our community, and each other.
Thank you all, and stay well.
James T. McDeavitt, M.D.
Senior Vice President and Dean of Clinical Affairs
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