Thanksgiving Day Message, 2020

As Thanksgiving Day rapidly approaches, a moment of reflection on this past year would raise the question as to “what we are thankful for?” This past year has certainly been fraught with uncertainty and rapid change. Administration at AUIS along with our student body has weathered this period of turmoil with consternation. The canceling of classroom teaching, hospital rotations, licensing exams, and on-site accreditation visits from accreditation boards has resulted in a period of stagnation and anxiety. Dr. Agnihotri, Mr. Pinckney, and I have instituted town hall meetings to keep our student body informed and aware of changes announced by the ACGME. The canceling of the Step 2 CS exam until June of 2021 has also resulted in the necessity of recreating a suitable alternative school exam to meet ECFMG requirements.

Dr. Agnihotri and I are currently planning to make available a CS equivalent exam in February 2021 to meet ECFMG requirements. This exam does not replace the necessity that our graduating students preparing to enter residency, will still be required to take the USMLE Step 2 CS exam once testing has recommenced. The details of the exam and the optional preparatory course will be announced in mid-December. In order to fulfill ECFMG requirements, the AUIS exam will closely resemble the actual CS exam, with multiple patient encounters, employment of standardized patients, video recordings, and SOAP note preparation and grading of equal scrutiny to the CS exam. The difficulty in firmly announcing the date and format is the fact that COVID infections are continuing to increase along with hospitalizations and deaths. It is anticipated that a further “lockdown” will be announced by the federal government, which will ban all public gatherings?

Thomas Oppong posed the question in a recent article; “In our chaotic world, What’s the best way to live? How can I stay calm in turbulent times? What should I do to build resilience? How should I manage my emotions? “The one message I want to emphasize,” you are not alone.” As a professor at two other Stateside medical schools, I can share with you that medical students throughout the US and Canada are experiencing the same mental and emotional burden of uncertainty as to our own AUIS students. The positives are that hopefully you and your family are healthy and have not been hospitalized? You may have gathered that a number of our administrative faculty, me included have recovered from COVID.

Just as in past pandemics, conflict in the world, world wars, tornadoes, and hurricanes we as a nation have survived and, in the end, have more resolve, compassion, and tenacity. When you think of the personal hurdles you have overcome, to be where you are; you will prevail and will emerge stronger. Remember, “why you started.” The dream has not died, just delayed by a virus unknown to man that has created an unprecedented quagmire in which we will not only survive but will emerge more pertinacious as a society.

Seneca stated: “The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow, and loses today.” Fortunately, with advanced technology, and the ability to improvise; AUIS has been able to continue to offer medical education via a distant learning format. As a result, our pedagogical methods have transformed to meet the needs of AUIS undergraduate medical education and remain COVID compliant with State and Federal guidelines.

I encourage you in this period of reflection and thanksgiving, to appreciate the loved ones in your life, to reach out to those less fortunate with kindness and compassion, and to treasure your own health and remember “Why you Started.”

Don W. Penney MD.MSC.FACEP.FAAEM.
Neurological Surgeon
Provost, Dean Clinical Affairs. AUIS
School of Medicine.

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