I hope this note finds you at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19 and doing well. I would like to use this Word from the President article to talk to you about four issues: the pandemic, anti-racism, rare diseases and transitions.
As the pandemic continues to rage and people are starting to get vaccinated (although slower than I would like), there are three aspects of the pandemic I have noticed and want to mention. The first is loneliness. Much has been written about how the isolation that many are feeling is impacting them. I can tell you personally that now that I am working from home and not seeing patients (or my former colleagues), both my wife and I are definitely feeling the isolation. I can also reinforce what we all know, which is the importance of family during this time. Both the nuclear families we live with, but also our families that we don’t live with and may only see on FaceTime or Zoom. The lack of that close contact (and hugs) is huge and can’t be overlooked. I think we are also seeing the isolation play out on the mental health of our adolescents. As I write this, we have 16 adolescent patients in our hospital, either with suicidal ideation/attempt and/or intentional drug ingestions, which is higher than I can ever recall.
At our recent January chapter Board of Directors meeting, we heard from our anti-racism task force co-chairs, Drs. Eileen Crespo and Katie Sadak. They presented that the work group has developed a number of sub-committees working on various issues and will finalize their recommendations to the board in the near future. These recommendations will be reviewed at a special board meeting this month. I also want to make sure that you all are aware of the increasing amount of medical literature looking at common medical tests and mortality rates that have a racist undertone. Two that have caught my attention are “Racial Bias in Pulse Oximetry” in the New England Journal of Medicine (https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2029240) and the second was “Physician-patient racial concordance and disparities in birthing mortality for newborns” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America by Dr. Rachel Hardeman at the University of Minnesota (https://www.pnas.org/content/117/35/21194). Both are worth reading.
I also want to briefly tell you about the Chloe Barnes Council on Rare Disease, of which I am a member. This council was established by the Minnesota Legislature several years ago to bring attention to and improve the care provided to those with a rare disease. A rare disease is defined as a disease with an incidence <1:200,000, of which there are currently 7,000. I am the lead for the work group on the issue of transitions of care and care coordination, and included within this is the topic of transitioning pediatric patients with complex health care needs to adult clinicians. Among the goals our work group hopes to accomplish is the development of a registry of adult clinicians willing to take on these patients. More to come on this subject.
Finally, and sadly, Eric Dick, our chapter’s lobbyist for the last decade, died in early January. He was a much-loved colleague and a wonderful advocate for our chapter and Minnesota’s children. May his memory always be a blessing. We are fortunate to have Dave Renner, director of advocacy at the Minnesota Medical Association, to fill in for MNAAP’s lobbying needs and to advise us during this legislative session.
Sheldon Berkowitz, MD, FAAP
MNAAP Chapter President