Christopher Bundy, MD, FASAM, Fall/Winter 2020

Christopher Bundy, MD, MPH, FASAM

On January 20, 2020, the first confirmed U.S. case of COVID-19 occurred in Washington State. By February, a nursing home outbreak would make Washington our nation’s first epicenter of what would become a global pandemic.

Fear and uncertainty gripped the country as we struggled to understand what was happening, who was at risk, how the disease was spread, and the potential impact to ourselves, our loved ones, the healthcare infrastructure, and the economy. Social collapse suddenly became a near future possibility. However, the dire circumstances galvanized a healthcare workforce that rose heroically to answer the call. Systemic dysfunction and bureaucratic hurdles that had been barriers to widespread implementation of telehealth services “virtually” disappeared overnight. Reuse of personal protective equipment, unthinkable prior to COVID, became standard operating procedure as supply chains failed. After decades of systematic marginalization, the expertise and voices of doctors were being relied upon by hospital administrators struggling to find solutions to the crisis. In terms of telehealth regulations, payor issues, and the creation of COVID wards, rigid and constraining rules and regulations became more flexible, fluid, or even unnecessary so that we could adapt to the rapidly changing circumstances.

In The Origin of Species, Darwin states that it is not the strongest or most intelligent that survives, but the one that is most adaptable to change. I have marveled at the pace and competence with which our member physician health programs have been able to adapt inside our new and dynamic reality. We have challenged our old ideas and developed fresh, innovative, and effective ways of supporting the healthcare workforce during a time when our mission could not be more vital. Some of Darwin’s other views may have pushed a scientific version of racism that still impacts us today. Ironically, embracing adaptation and a willingness to confront our assumptions and biases will serve us well in confronting the challenges of COVID-19 and systemic racism.

Navigating these challenges would not be possible without the collaboration and collective expertise that embody this Federation. Having immediate access to guidance from across the field has been critical to rapidly evolving best practices under unprecedented circumstances. Our email groups, ever-expanding online resources, and virtual education sessions have provided and will continue to provide you with the connections and tools you need to stay at the top of your game.

As the pandemic wears on, casualties among physicians working on the front lines of patient care have heightened the national discourse on physician suicide and well-being. This much-needed and overdue attention touches directly on our work and underscores the importance of having our expertise and voice included in the dialogue. FSPHP has spent the last several years nurturing strong relationships with the major players among national organizations that shape the healthcare professional, regulatory, and advocacy environment. As the result of these efforts, you may rest assured that the Federation is effectively representing you on the issues that impact your work and participants. The bottom line is that we are here for you and being a member of the Federation has never been more relevant and valuable. We count on your continued support, through membership activities, committee work, and charitable giving so that we can grow the resources and influence that will help us support and sustain the healthcare workforce in the days ahead.

Serving as your first (and hopefully last) “virtual president” has challenged me in ways I had never anticipated. It has been disappointing to not be able to gather with you, break bread, and connect on a more intimate level during a time when we really need each other’s support. But being a virtual president also means fewer days I must travel or put on a suit and more bedtime stories with my kids. We were recently reading Kobi Yamada’s book, What Do You Do With A Problem? In it, we are reminded that inside the heart of any problem lies opportunity. In complicated times, the truth of this simple and transcendent concept could not be more ironic and comforting.

A famous poker player once said, “Anyone can play heroically, but in the end, what is most important is how you play the terrible hands, the ones you can barely stand to look at.” As a Federation we will unmask opportunities and manage the tough hands. We will take hope and inspiration from humble yet abiding faith in our ability to prevail over adversity. And, when foreboding creeps in (as it inevitably will) we recognize that our strength is drawn from the power of relationships to support, heal, and accomplish together what we could not do alone.

Read more on this in the Fall/Winter 2020 issue