2020 was a year like no other. During the past year, our world and our school have experienced both unprecedented challenges and historic progress. I am incredibly grateful to our faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends for their sacrifices, commitment and contributions.
When news about the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 first broke out, our entire School of Medicine community sprang to action so we could continue to fulfill our missions as an academic medical center – caring for patients, working to understand and mitigate this new threat, educating our students, and caring for our community.
Our brave and dedicated health care workers showed up on the frontlines on day one—putting others ahead of themselves to care for those suffering from COVID-19, a virus that we still knew very little about. Almost immediately, Duke Health established drive-thru testing sites, and our providers transitioned to telemedicine visits to offer the best, safest care possible for patients while keeping themselves and their families safe.
From the very start, innovation was key to fighting this pandemic, and Duke has helped lead the way. Our expertise in clinical research has been paramount. Our researchers and clinical research staff have led and participated in clinical trials so that Duke could offer patients the most cutting edge therapies available to treat COVID-19.
Many of our laboratory researchers pivoted from their primary research area to focus on COVID-19, bringing their knowledge and expertise to respond to the challenge at hand. Decades of research led by faculty and staff in the Duke Human Vaccine Institute, Duke Global Health Institute, Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, and across our campus laid the foundation for the knowledge and data that have allowed Duke to move quickly to understand the virus and transmission, improve testing, and develop vaccines and counter measures – for now and for the future.
Last summer, Duke developed a comprehensive surveillance and testing program so that we could reopen our campus while minimizing the spread of the virus. This incredible work was recognized by the CDC and has been highlighted nationwide as a best practice for other campuses and organizations.
Our students have responded to the pandemic in full force, positioning themselves as an integral part of our response to COVID-19, participating in telemedicine, working in vaccination clinics and in research labs. The year 2020-2021 has provided teaching moments unlike we have seen before. New classes were developed in a span of weeks instead of months, and our students and educators moved to virtually learning in record time.
Together we have embraced two important goals throughout this pandemic: to lead and contribute to the response against COVID-19 and to minimize the spread of the virus among our faculty, staff, students, and in our community. We have joined with community partners, schools, government agencies, and health care organizations to help inform, educate and provide care and have worked to ensure that everyone has access to care and to vaccines – especially our most vulnerable populations, our Latinx and Black communities and the elderly.
Through it all, there have been so many unsung heroes. I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you. I could not be more proud to be a part of the Duke University School of Medicine.