In this issue of PHHP News we hear from several faculty, staff and students who discuss the myriad ways they have been affected by COVID-19. We also welcome a new group of graduates to the alumni family who, since March 2020, have coped with major disruptions to their coursework, clinical experiences, research and college experience. Despite these hurdles, members of our college have done extraordinary things to protect the health of our campus and communities; maintain high quality education, research and service; and support each other.
Fifteen months ago, none of us could have imagined the dire challenges that would confront our nation and the entire world. Indeed, COVID-19 has represented the greatest public health challenge that our country has faced over the last 100 years. Moreover, the storm of the pandemic has been compounded by the turbulence of social injustices that have compelled us to face the inequities experienced by so many members of our society.
Hopefully, we are now at a point where we will soon emerge from the dark clouds of the past year. I believe we have an important opportunity — a time to reflect on the past year and a time to identify lessons learned as we move forward into what we hope will be the bright sunshine of the days ahead. In a recent message to new graduates, I offered three lessons from the experiences of the past year that I believe are relevant to all of us.
Lesson 1: Science matters. In the early days of the pandemic, there was uncertainty of how the virus was spread: Was it a food-borne illness? Could it be transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces? Science guided us. Indeed, studies, including research from our faculty, showed that COVID is transmitted through airborne particles. Science also guided us by demonstrating that we could slow or prevent transmission through comprehensive programs of testing, contact tracing, masking and social distancing. Finally, in what is truly a remarkable achievement, science has produced vaccines with incredibly high rates of effectiveness. These vaccines hold the promise of preventing serious illness and death and curtailing the pandemic. Clearly, science matters.
Lesson 2: Community matters. Some communities are based on our family heritage, others are based on where we live, what schools we attend, where we worship, and where we work. These communities play important roles in our lives. They give us a sense of common identity — who we are — and they give us the values that guide our actions and provide a sense of social responsibility.
Communities also matter because they protect and nurture us. In times of challenge, such as the past year, communities can help buffer us against stresses and threats to our wellbeing and help us to overcome what may appear to be insurmountable obstacles. Communities matter because they foster caring for others.
Lesson 3: You matter. Yes, you matter. If you need evidence that you matter, simply reflect on all the members in your communities who have supported you in your endeavors — not just during the year of the pandemic but in all of the years that came before.
Now here is the second part of the reflection on why you matter. You matter because you have an obligation to care for others. Caring for others in your community and caring as health professionals to help heal wounds, physically, socially and even spiritually. Equipped with the knowledge that comes from science, you have an obligation, a social responsibility to share your expertise for the greater common good — playing an important role in healing individuals and healing communities.
As rays of hope appear on our horizon, I urge you to move forward with an unwavering commitment to the greater good that represents the heart and spirit of what it truly means to be a Florida Gator.