COVID-19 has revealed the worst and best of our country. Some have used it to validate their racism (my Korean-born son keeps me apprised of the Asian prejudice he has experienced) and a few leaders have made policy decisions based on ideology and not science, with disastrous consequences. That said, no world threat since those 13 days in October 1962 has demonstrated so decisively our interconnectedness. The best of our country has been demonstrated by our frontline health care workers, grocery clerks, people who deliver our packages, and volunteers who help feed our fellow citizens.
We are witnessing consequences of long-term health disparities that America continues to condone. Current hotspots are clustered in cities with high population density where people (usually minorities) lack ready access to health care and live with barriers to preventive care (poor nutritional options and a lack of sufficient primary care). We have underfunded our public health system and allowed politicians to ignore science. When testing was not prioritized initially, we lost the ability to isolate and trace index cases. If we want to honor those people who have died, let’s learn from our experience and change our priorities.
Private practices and health systems alike are being financially devastated. We are seeing massive numbers of people furloughed or laid off, as practices see drastic revenue loss. The transition to virtual health (video visits, remote patient monitoring) has been breath-taking with real implications about future needs for bricks and mortar. These changes in care delivery will be sustained in the future. Practice acquisitions have stopped, planned private equity exits are on hold, and the job market for graduating fellows will be challenging for the next 2 years. Now is a time for our GI societies to come together and find solutions for these problems so that our specialty can remain viable.
John I. Allen, MD, MBA, AGAF
Editor in Chief