As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we are realizing just how extensively our lives are being affected by it. It curtails our freedom during our daily work life; we are no longer the ones deciding who gets to have surgery, or how many surgical masks we get per week, or if we can test our patient for the virus before surgery. We are seeing our colleagues from anesthesia, ICU, ED and ID exhausted, overworked, and in some cases getting ill. We are being called to fill in for their roles. As we deal with our own very real personal fears, we have to find ways to remind ourselves that all of this will one day pass. It will.
In the meantime, it is our responsibility to make the right decisions for our patients, our colleagues, and ourselves during this stressful situation. Because that is what we, as surgeons and surgical team members, do in our daily lives. It is our responsibility to find hope amidst the chaos, and support those colleagues that may be the most overwhelmed by the crisis despite their daily heroic actions and decisions. Finding hope is also part of what we do and give to our patients and their families in our daily lives. It is our responsibility to step-up and be leaders during this crisis, because surgeons are intrinsic leaders, as necessitated by the nature of our work and our role within the surgical team.
I now have the honor of being the president of SAGES. I use the word honor this year, not just for the usual reasons that the position entails within this great organization, but in particular because I have been humbled as I witness how SAGES reacts to this crisis. At all levels of the SAGES family, from the past president, to Executive Committee and Board members, and many other committee and individual members. They have proactively stepped up utilizing their leadership skills and working very hard to make a positive difference during this crisis. Not only at their local level but for the surgical community at large. These actions are undertaken without any expectation of academic or financial reward, and are inspiring to witness.
There is no better testament to our new vision statement: “Reimagining surgical care for a healthier world”. Who knew, less than five months ago when the vision statement was created, that it would be put to such a drastic test during one of the worst health care crisis in our history… and yes, we really are doing so.
Please remember you are a surgeon, you are a leader, make good use of those, your qualities during these difficult times! We will learn from this experience and we will become better for our patients and for each other. Understand that fear and courage are not exclusive. Experiencing fear for ourselves and our loved ones is normal and we must honor the feeling. Going to work despite it shows courage and we should also honor that fact.
Don’t forget for a moment that soon we will be celebrating camaraderie, collegiality and the art of having good fun together, as we do so every year.
Stay well, best wishes to you and yours.
Horacio J. Asbun, MD
Visit https://www.sages.org/category/covid-19/ for SAGES updated statements regarding COVID-19.
Visit https://www.sages.org/video/surgical-guidelines-during-covid-19/ to view the SAGES April 8, 2020 webinar on Surgical Guidelines during COVID-19.