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Best Wishes for the Holidays and 2021

Posted on December 21, 2020
holiday card

By Ana V. Diez Roux, MD, PhD, MPH

Every December as the year draws to a close, we look back at the year that has passed and reflect on our hopes for the future. This end of the year, the close of 2020, is more poignant than ever because of all the challenges that this year has bought us, some new, some not so new. We have seen hardship and loss and injustice ongoing and magnified. And yet despite all this I have seen resilience, strength, and hope.

Our entire School community has quickly adapted and come together so that we can stay true to our mission while working remotely. We have had classes, discussions, celebrations, meetings large and small, and hard conversations on Zoom. Our faculty and staff have somehow managed to keep everything going, often from home and in very difficult circumstances, balancing childcare, homeschooling and so many other responsibilities. I have seen them on Zoom in their kitchens, their bedrooms, their living rooms (even in their cars!) often with their families (and pets!) around them, multitasking and balancing all the competing demands and stress that this year has brought us.

Our students have navigated the transition to remote education and even remote practical experiences with patience and dedication. They have watched many taped and live lectures on Zoom and have engaged with break-out rooms large and small. All of us, faculty, staff, and students, have struggled with social isolation and stress resulting from the pandemic. The ways in which the pandemic and police brutality have evidenced yet again the racist policies and structures that continue to characterize our society have been extraordinarily painful and stressful for Black faculty, staff, and students, who have faced many demands and have nevertheless generously stepped up in so many ways to help us move forward in our journey to become truly anti-racist.

And yet despite all these challenges, 2020 has also shown us what we can do together. Faculty, staff, and students quickly reoriented their work to address the pandemic, from helping out with the University response to assisting the health department to conducting new research. Students came together and advocated with the University for racial justice. It was in response to a student proposal that we were able to launch the IDEA Fellows program. Through our anti-racism plan, we have come together to engage in the difficult work of becoming anti-racist in all of our activities and programs. Thanks to the generosity of Dana and David Dornsife and the work of faculty, staff, and students, we will be able to soon launch a new Center on Racism and Health that will have at its core anti-racist research, education, and advocacy. And all the other work of our School on so many other ongoing public health challenges (that will persist and perhaps even grow after the pandemic) has continued. All this and more you will see highlighted in the new School magazine.

There will be much to do in 2021. But now, most importantly, I hope you will take time to rest, recharge, and connect with your loved ones safely. We will need your energy, creativity and determination in the new year. And above all thank you for all your hard work, patience, generosity, and dedication in 2020. I look forward to working with all of you in a fresh new year with new opportunities ahead. I wish you all very happy holidays and a great start to 2021!