MUSC Presidential Update - March 26, 2021

Dear MUSC family,

As we move through the first official week of Spring, I wanted to share a few thoughts during this seasonal time of rejuvenation and new growth.

Year of the pandemic

When I think about all that we’ve been through, accomplished and faced in the past year, the “Year of COVID-19,” it’s hard to put into words how proud I am of the entire MUSC family. As a nation, state and community, we have suffered great losses during this time. To honor all of those taken from us too soon by the virus, MUSC will hold a day of remembrance service at noon on April 14. Please stay tuned to your email for the MUSC Update, as well as other communication vehicles, in the coming days for more information.

Still, in this unfolding COVID story, we are continually required to face new challenges – the latest chapter being vaccination. At the ground level, you have been doing an awesome job – and I thank you for your professionalism and tireless work. Just as we quickly responded when needed for testing – to date we have administered 378,998 PCR tests, 74,822 of which were given in underserved/rural areas, and hosted 475 mobile testing events in all 46 S.C. counties – MUSC has been asked by the state Legislature to bring vaccines to the most underserved and rural areas of South Carolina. As you are aware, this is an essential part of our mission, which we embrace, and represents the trust placed in MUSC as a direct result of our leadership, expertise, collaboration and commitment to serve this state and its citizens.

Vaccine supply has been a major challenge at a national and state level. To be clear, the weekly vaccine supplies available to the state, and thus MUSC, continue to fall well short of the need. This has translated into many frustrating hours spent rescheduling, adjusting and redirecting supplies for our teams in recent weeks. I’m pleased that we were able to begin offering new first-dose appointments and will clear our current waitlist for the vaccine this week. Our teams are working with precision to maximize our implementation of the vaccine, and I’m cautiously optimistic that our vaccine supply bottleneck is beginning to loosen. I cannot underscore enough the remarkable efforts that have gone into this process by so many from across our health system. One year from the beginning of the pandemic, we have seemingly begun the last leg of this marathon. I know you’re tired – but please, don’t lose heart now. We must continue to role model for those we serve the preventive measures that have proved to deter the virus from spreading. Wear a mask. Social distance and wash your hands. Protect the most vulnerable among us. Stay the course because, truly, we are almost there.

From a 30,000-foot view, it might be helpful to know a little more about my thoughts regarding moving our critical and important work forward for those we serve, COVID-19 or otherwise. Two pieces on my new blog, Life Beyond COVID-19 and Tyrannosaurus MUSC Rex?, are quick reads that may provide some more insight. I hope you’ll take a moment to reflect on how these concepts pertain to your contributions to our shared mission and the future we seek to co-create.

Reflecting on mass violence, racism: We must do better

In the wake of mass killings in Georgia, and now, Colorado, during the past week, as well as the overall rise in hate crimes and violence against those of Asian descent across the nation, once again we find ourselves grappling with heinous, senseless acts as we seek to offer understanding and healing for all of those mourning the loss of loved ones or who have been touched in some way by these recent events.

As our chief equity officer, Willette Burnham-Williams, Ph.D., noted in a recent communication to the organization, we have a duty to examine these moments of tragedy. We can reinvest in our personal efforts to educate ourselves, reflect on and correct our own biases and look for organizational opportunities to engage in constructive and meaningful work and behaviors that address these societal issues. We are committed to making sure that all who engage with MUSC feel welcome, valued and safe. We’re not perfect, but we are an institution filled with diverse, compassionate people who are dedicated to fairness, equity and inclusion in all that we do.

Yours in service,
David J. Cole, M.D., FACS
MUSC President