Annual Reflections at the End of 2020

William Hersh, MD, Professor and Chair, OHSU
Blog: Informatics Professor
Twitter: @williamhersh

Since the inception of this blog in 2009, I have ended each year with a post reflecting back on the year. In the early years, a good deal of the focus of this blog was on the HITECH Act, especially its workforce development provisions. Later on, there were other topics such as the clinical informatics subspecialty and emergence of data science. And many more.

And now, the end of 2020, which has been a year like no other. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives and society. It has not only created a public health emergency, but also uncovered other fault lines in our society, from systemic racism to political leadership more focused on personal aggrandizement than solving real problems in society.

Despite these challenges, other aspects of 2020 were successful. From a professional standpoint, my research and educational work barely missed a beat. I mostly publish as a senior author these days, and my name appeared in that position in a number of publications. I maintained my educational work as well, not only directing the OHSU Biomedical Informatics Graduate Program but also adding teaching that was needed to fill in for lost opportunities in the pandemic, especially for medical students.

I spent a fair amount of time in 2020 trying to reflect on gratitude, especially the value of the continuity of family and friends. There is no question that having a lifetime of friends and colleagues made the (hopefully temporary) transition to virtual life more tolerable. While life on the other side of COVID-19 will no doubt be different, I do look forward to returning to in-person interaction and being able to travel.

This all said, I am optimistic going into 2021. Vaccines are being rolled out, starting first with frontline workers and high-risk populations and then later to the rest of us. A new US political leadership promises a return to decision-making based on science and human dignity. And the need for the research and education in informatics will be needed more than ever.

This article post first appeared on The Informatics Professor. Dr. Hersh is a frequent contributing expert to HealthIT Answers.