These times are most often described as difficult, extraordinary, challenging, and unprecedented. But let’s be honest. The nine months since a novel coronavirus upended life as we knew it have been heartbreaking, lonely, scary, and frustrating.
Yet they’ve also been inspiring. From the moment the first case of COVID-19 in our region was diagnosed at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and the Geisel School of Medicine moved its curricula online, to the ongoing protests against endemic racism in America, our faculty, students, caregivers, and neighbors have stepped up. These times call on us for more, and our community has responded.
Last spring, Geisel and Dartmouth-Hitchcock (D-H) researchers, in collaboration with Dartmouth College colleagues, quickly pivoted to focus on COVID-19 diagnostics and treatments. That work enabled D-H to provide accurate and rapid coronavirus testing early in the pandemic, and to offer patients with COVID-19 the most promising treatments through clinical trials—options not routinely available in rural communities. When these times called for flexibility, our scientists and clinicians took action.
In-person classes and clinical rotations ended abruptly for Geisel students, an enormous disruption in their medical education. But they have demonstrated the resilience, empathy, and determination we need from our future physicians. While adapting to online learning, students like Yujia Shentu ’23 also volunteered their time to distribute fresh produce to food pantries, help frontline workers with childcare, and serve in nonclinical roles in hospitals. After the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, Geisel students began steering efforts to address the racism that exists in our own community, and continue that work today. When these times called for selflessness, our medical students led by example.
Doctors, nurses, and staff across the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health system have shown commitment and resourcefulness in caring for patients during the pandemic. Our Connected Care team dramatically expanded use of telemedicine appointments in order to ensure continuity of care for people at home. Then, as conditions allowed, our care teams worked together to adapt our operations to safely and successfully re-open for in-person appointments and procedures. When these times called for creativity, our providers envisioned different ways to deliver their care.
Throughout the crisis, you—our donors, friends, and volunteers—have stood with us. You used your connections to ensure that our frontline staff were equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE). You aided those in need with gifts to our COVID-19 Community Relief Fund, D-H’s HOPE Fund for employees, and Geisel’s student emergency fund. You participated in a virtual Prouty and virtual CHaD Hero to raise money for Dartmouth’s and Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center and the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. And in the midst of great economic uncertainty, you stayed the course with your crucial support for research, mental health, medical student scholarships, and so much more. When these times called for generosity, you moved us with your kindness.
Looking ahead, we will act with the same commitment and resourcefulness that’s carried us through this year. As health care professionals, scientists, and educators, we are called to the vital work of creating healthier, more resilient, and more equitable communities. We must confront the persistent racism and inequities that lead to unacceptable disparities in nearly every aspect of modern life—including health care. That’s why Geisel and D-H have launched multiple initiatives to address the policies, practices, and cultural norms that perpetuate bias, racism, and inequity within our institutions and to better support our employees, students, and patients from underrepresented and disadvantaged groups. This work will not be easy nor quick. It will require sustained engagement and investments. These times call on us for listening and self-examination, and we are committed to this undertaking.
Flexibility, selflessness, creativity, generosity, listening and self-examination—in these ways and so many more, our community has responded to the challenges of these times, and we are deeply grateful.
Duane A. Compton, PhD
Dean, Geisel School of Medicine
Joanne M. Conroy, MD
CEO and President, Dartmouth-Hitchcock and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health