Word from the President: Sheldon Berkowitz, MD, FAAP


Sheldon Berkowitz, MD, FAAP

IIt is hard for me to believe, but this will be my final column as president of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The two years of my term have gone by rapidly and they were incredibly busy. I want to dedicate this space for my reflections and thanks. 

Many, many years ago I took a wilderness medicine course on Mt. Shasta in California (those were the days!). In addition to learning wilderness medicine skills, we also learned some mountaineering skills and had the chance to climb Mt. Shasta. I didn’t make it to the summit as I had some problems with high altitude sickness (headaches) and had to turn back. I was really disappointed, but one of the guides pointed out that nature is not to be conquered but lived with. I think being president of our chapter is the same.

When I took on the presidency my goals were to try and visit pediatricians around the state and help to get two pieces of legislation passed: repeal of the personal belief exemption from the vaccination legislation and get common sense gun violence prevention laws passed. Due to the pandemic and our divided legislature neither of those were accomplished, but may be works-in-progress for our next president, Dr. Eileen Crespo and our board moving forward, if they desire. 

As I have written about in my previous columns, George Floyd’s death in May 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic have changed everything for us these last two years. Just the other day, I was listening to Grand Rounds at Children’s Minnesota and four research projects were presented: two of which dealt with racial disparities in health care. Being aware of such disparities and trying to address them has become increasingly common in health care – which is a great thing. We need to be looking at how not our patients and families of color, as well as our colleagues in pediatrics and health care, are treated differently. This discrimination is an issue that needs our constant attention and efforts to improve.

I would direct your attention to the recently released AAP Policy statement, ”Eliminating Race-Based Medicine” which gives a wonderful recounting of Race-Based Medicine and what can and is being done about it. 

COVID-19 has changed so much in health care. New diagnoses and therapeutics, a worldwide pandemic and its effect on every aspect of our lives, and “doing more with less” has become a mantra that none of us want to hear or deal with in our professional lives. For many of our younger colleagues, they will grow up professionally not knowing a world without COVID-19, but for those of us who are older it has been a game changer. Even getting children in for well child visits and routine vaccinations has been negatively impacted by the pandemic. 

Finally, the partisan political landscape, both in Minnesota and nationally, has made it increasingly difficult to get much-needed healthcare and social legislation passed. We are also seeing increasing attacks on many aspects of providing health care and keeping our patients and their families safe, including repeated attacks on our LGBTQ youth. Our efforts on advocacy have never been greater.

Yes, we have a lot of work ahead of us, but our MNAAP is in good hands. Dr. Eileen Crespo will take over as president on July 1 and will do a great job. She is backed up by a super board of directors and executive committee, as well as great staff. 

I want to thank several people here – although in all fairness, I need to thank our entire executive committee, board, work group leads and champions and chapter members for the outstanding work you all do and support you have given me during my term as president. Dr. Lori DeFrance as our past president and Eileen Crespo as our vice president have been huge sources of help. Jeff Bauer stepped in last year as our new executive director and hasn’t stopped running since. He has taken ownership of the position and has been great. Chad Fahning has also stepped into the role of chapter lobbyist and is doing a wonderful job trying to fill the huge hole left with Eric Dick’s death. And Bethany Venable is our outstanding communications manager whose ability to word things in the best possible way has been immensely helpful with all the letters, documents, articles, weekly emails and newsletters over the last two years. Finally, I want to thank my wife, Carolyn, for all her support these last two years. 

It has been my great honor and pleasure to serve as your president and I want to wish you all the best. 

Annual Sponsors

Children's Minnesota
Gillette Children's
Hennepin Healthcare
University of Minnesota Health
Essentia Health
Mayo Clinic
Shriners Healthcare for Children-Twin Cities