This month and especially this weekend were to have been a time for celebration for our graduates. To the class of 2020, congratulations on the accomplishment of completing your studies! As a community, we are proud of you, and we look forward to your next steps.
I am confident that your future is bright, even as you plan to meet it in these challenging times with courage, faith and hope. As you map out your next steps and if you are so inclined, please allow me to suggest to you pursuing a career in the health professions.
At this extraordinary moment in time, humanity is facing the greatest public health challenge in a century. Serving on the front lines amid our many heroes, including law enforcement, grocery store workers, public utilities workers and all those who ensure the integrity of the tapestry of our daily life, are those who protect the health of our nation and its citizens.
Nurses, emergency medical technicians, medical laboratory technologists, mental health clinicians, pharmacists, physicians, medical assistants and public health workers literally stand ready, each day in the middle of this pandemic as our first line of defense against COVID-19 and its impacts.
Like other front-line workers, the commitment to this responsibility carries with it the risk of harm to self and family. Yet health care professionals are bound together by a collective commitment to place the health and well-being of those served above all other priorities.
To be sure, a global pandemic tests the mettle of those so bound in commitment. Our hopes and expectations for a return to normalcy depend on a workforce with the knowledge, skills and abilities to confront it head on.
Even in the best of times, our health care workforce struggles to meet the needs of an aging population, an increasingly complex health care system and a technological landscape evolving at lightning speed.
The health care workforce is strained and understaffed. Yet this realization does not fully reflect the potential, the opportunity and the promise of a rewarding career in a health profession. Perhaps never before has it been more important for students pondering their next steps to thoughtfully consider work in the health care field.
As we look to the future and the challenges of chronic disease, translating clinical research into pragmatic solutions, supporting the elder members of society with dignity and preparing for the next public health threats, health care professionals will be one of the most important resources.
To the Class of 2020, you have already faced many challenges – spanning the time from Sept. 11 to COVID-19. I can think of no group better to which to pass the torch in the race to ensure that the health care needs of society are met with excellence.
Dr. Matthew A. Clark is a board-certified physician in internal medicine and pediatrics practicing at the Ute Mountain Ute Health Center in Towaoc.