President’s Message

Posted on Nov 1, 2021 in President's Message | 0 comments

I recently watched an interview with Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of Medicine at UCSF, regarding his view of the trajectory of the COVID pandemic. He indicated that we have likely switched from a pandemic phase to an endemic one, where COVID will always be present to some degree. It got me thinking a lot about my own behaviors in the current state.

We have seen our internal numbers of cases going down, as well as those across the Sutter system. But they are not gone. Small blips here and there, with no great surges, the numbers of inpatients appeared to have stabilized, at least in the Bay region.

I have been living a pandemic lifestyle for the past year and a half. No dining in restaurants, no movies, no gym, no airplane flights. Of course, these have been personal choices based on the particular risk profile I live in – of constant exposure through work, of having school age children with no vaccine options (soon to change this coming week!), and of having parents with age and comorbidities being risk factors for serious illness or death.

But as the world learned from the influenza pandemic of 1918, life must go on. It took nearly two years for society to get back to some sense of normal, but it was one in which flu became common and seasonally came back to cause illness and death. This required, when it became available, a yearly flu shot to mitigate its effects. This is where I see us within the context of COVID.

Recently, my wife and I got our boosters, and we feel safer already. I have begun to loosen the reins a bit, making my first journey into the climbing gym (where one must show proof of vaccination to enter, and masks are required regardless) since this whole thing started. Just as in medicine, there is always a calculus of risk that goes into decision making, and some things I have withheld for too long.

The pandemic has accelerated certain technical innovations in healthcare such as telemedicine, which used the restrictions on in person interactions as a catalyst for growth and maturation. It will likely continue to grow. Virtual meetings are the standard now, and more people work remotely as part of their daily ritual. Just how much of what we once knew is going to come back, and do we even want to go back there? Perhaps the pandemic has made some things better? I know many others who are even less tolerant of risk than I am, and they keep waiting for the pandemic to be over, but… the coronavirus is unfortunately here to stay.  It’s endemic now. Over time, our collective immunity should strengthen, and we can only hope for the day when coronavirus is just a common cold again.

Jeff Chen MD, MPH, FACEP
Chief of Staff, ABSMC Summit Campus