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We hope that you are well in the face of the pandemic we are currently facing internationally. We are excited to let you know that plans are underway for CAHSPR’s first virtual conference, slated for May 27th and 28th, 2020. Mark your calendar and watch for more details that will follow in the coming days!

Below you will find April’s “CAHSPR Connects”. We would like to hear about your reflections on the impact of the pandemic. Tweet your thoughts and insights to us at @CAHSPR.

I had written a blog on another topic, but given the dramatic changes in our world, any topic seemed woefully inappropriate and somehow inadequate. So instead I have written something new, something related to our current battle with the novel corona virus. And so, I want to share with you what I’ve been thinking about as the world has changed and how I, and I suspect all of us, are seeing things with “new eyes” today.

Time has stood still and in what feels like a parallel reality, it has raced by since our last CAHSPR Connects. I cannot believe that it was just a few weeks ago that the CAHSPR Board made the unanimous decision to reschedule the in-person component of our annual conference to next year due to the increasing concern about COVID19. So much has happened since then; the World Health Organization has declared a global pandemic, several countries have experienced sorrow and loss that is almost incomprehensible, the paucity of critical supplies and worries about hospital capacity have become significant concerns and Canada, like many other countries, is trying to stop the spread of this virus.

While not all of us have been, or will be, infected by COVID19, all of us have been affected by it. We have developed a whole new vocabulary, with new COVID19 specific phrases rolling off our tongues as if they are a part of our normal language. We speak of flattening the curve, planking the curve, social distancing, physical distancing, PPE, ventilators, proning, Zoom meetings, virtual learning and novel viruses as if they have been everyday topics of discussion for years. While we have much to learn about the novel corona virus, and those lessons will be learned over many years, there is also much that we have already learned about society, about ourselves and about our commitment to improving health care and the health system. If I may, I’d like to share some of the things I am learning, and what I now see with “new eyes”. I’d particularly like to hear from you about what you are learning during this time of uncertainty.

My grandchildren (toddler twins!) told me the other day that they “quit” daycare because they have a new job to do now. They then made a dramatic display of telling me that this job was very important. They told me their job was to stay 6’ apart from everyone except their mum and dad because they had to help doctors and nurses to stop a big, bad virus; a virus that could hurt a lot of people if we let it. They told me that the “big bad virus” thought it was tough, but that Canadians are tougher because we know how to do our job. If our kids get it, we can do our part too. Social distancing is our job until those who have the expertise, based on science, tell us otherwise.

I have learned that humility is key to overcoming this virus. No one is a COVID19 expert and mistakes will be made. Hypotheses will be wrong. Models are not crystal balls. Accepting that we are all learning together, being willing to change our thinking as new evidence comes to the fore and working from the same starting place has democratized the process for many. The sharing of ideas and solutions, I believe, will lead us to being able to conquer COVID19. I hope that this democratization of the scientific process will extend past the COVID19 pandemic and benefit other dilemmas we face in healthcare and beyond.

I’m involved with provincial initiatives to ramp up some virtual health services with the specific intention of helping us handle COVID19’s impact on hospital capacity. One of the most encouraging observations for me has been the degree of ingenuity, innovation and collaboration I have seen. This, in concert with the shedding of our tendency to wait for perfect has really made me stop and reflect. I have seen people collaborate in new, exciting ways, sharing ideas, sharing resources and truly co-creating something special. Perhaps the key is that we have a common objective that we are committed to achieving together. Or perhaps we just didn’t think of working this way before. The art of the possible has taken on new meaning.

Speaking of the art of the possible, CAHSPR is re-imagining how we engage with you and we are excited about what the future holds. You have been generous with your time and insights as we plan our virtual meeting(s), and as we plan for our next in person meeting. You have shared some great ideas that we have been working with! There will be more details in the coming days, and we would ask that you mark your calendars for May 27th and 28th when we will be holding our virtual conference. You will get the details via email, on twitter and the CAHSPR website. Our President, Dr. Roxane Borgès Da Silva will be sharing more about the virtual meeting in our May edition of CAHSPR Connects – don’t miss it! While we are sad that our in-person conference could not take place as planned in 2020, we will be meeting in new ways and that excites all of us!

I have seen a new willingness to remove barriers and to embrace community. People in the community working together, side by side with healthcare workers is the new norm. Citizens using 3D printers to make personal protective equipment, distillers switching operations to make sanitizer, people in communities across Canada sewing masks and the “caremongering” movement; a uniquely Canadian grassroots movement to spread compassion, kindness and community spirit rather than fear. I am inspired by how quickly everyone is adapting and getting things done. When we’re through all this, let’s all make sure the red tape and bureaucracy we previously accepted as normal do not again become barriers! Let us continue to value community.

These new ways of thinking, and of working together will fundamentally change healthcare delivery and our health system in the future. I heard one colleague say that when we are past this and when we look back at what we accomplished, together there will be no going back to the old ways. I agree.

As I see things with the new eyes that Proust described, the most meaningful thing I see around me is gratitude. I too am grateful.

  • I am grateful for each of you and the part you are playing in the transformation of healthcare.
  • I want you to know that you make a difference every single day. That difference is your commitment to healthcare, your commitment as a community, to solve what has looked to be unsolvable to others.
  • To all of you in the health services and policy research community, I am grateful to you for being the difference. It matters and it helps us to shape a new story about the experiences of patients and caregivers in the Canadian health system.