By Panayiotis (Panos) N. Varelas, MD, PhD, FAAN, FNCS
Reflecting on 2021: A Year of Celebration and Success for NCS
Dear NCS Members,
Well, we did it! We hosted the first hybrid Annual Meeting in Chicago, with more than 700 in-person attendees and another 600 joining us virtually. How did it feel? Everyone I’ve asked said it was “so much better to see each other three-dimensionally!” Despite the fear of COVID and the new normal of wireless interactions these days, we are still social animals. We need to interact with real people, even without seeing their full faces, even without hugging and kissing them. We need to walk, stop and talk. We need to sit around a table and have coffee or dinner, telling old and new stories or just gossiping. We need to challenge our imagination about what is hiding behind a mask. The meeting explored the concept of enhanced safety, which we placed as the highest priority. We were fortunate that all NCS members were wise enough to follow the guidelines in place — be vaccinated, update the CLEAR requirements daily, wear masks, keep distance and sanitize our hands. This is the greatest satisfaction for the Annual Meeting committee, my co-chairs Susan and Mark, the executive committee, the board members and me personally.
Thankfully, all went well with the Annual Meeting. We attended and, beyond the socialization, we enjoyed the new science and education, which is the real value of this and all previous meetings. We also heard from amazing keynote speakers — Maurizio Cecconi, who spoke about the European and Italian COVID experience, and Nerissa Ko, who spoke about inclusion and diversity. To my surprise, I learned from her that the AMA was excluding people of color until few decades ago. How could the largest association of physicians have an exclusive past? We are talking about physicians, highly educated people who dedicate their lives to helping others. How could the skin color of a human make a physician look at another physician differently? But it has happened in the days of yore. How eye opening!
The closing keynote speaker, Sebastian Carasco, warmed our hearts. How a young, athletic guy at his prime lost function, became wheelchair-bound, passed through all the emotional stages one could imagine and eventually found peace. And he continued to search for high peaks to conquer. What an amazing lesson for all of us who deal with pain, death, disability and personal burnout every day in our neuro ICUs!
The Annual Meeting was not the entirety of this year. As we head toward the holidays and the end of the year, we also look at other 2021 NCS achievements. One of the most important was the Neurocritical Care Foundation (NCCF), a new, independent entity for the philanthropic support of all research and educational activities. NCS had to make a decision to create NCCF and support this new initiative. And we did! In parallel, we continued the Curing Coma® Campaign and held the inaugural World Coma Day with great success. We enhanced collaboration with other societies, such as the SCCM, the AES and the ANA, some of which will lead to new guidelines. We created neuro-recovery content at the University of Edinburgh’s Nursing Program, a partner of SameYou. We also launched a very successful educational product, the Neurocritical Care Board Review Question Bank for the first ABPN NCC board exam. I sat for the exam and I can tell you it was long — especially while wearing a face mask — and not easy. The question bank was clearly helpful, and we will expand it further.
All of these important developments wouldn’t have happened without Wade’s kind and mature leadership and Smithbucklin’s assistance. Most importantly, nothing would have been achieved without your involvement and participation — you, the members from all disciplines, the young generation of healthcare providers, the future leadership of this society. This is our strength and our hope.
As the holidays and the New Year are approaching, I will end this letter by thanking our Smithbucklin colleagues and the committee and section members for all the work they accomplished in 2021 to keep NCS alive and thriving. I also will end by wishing you the most relaxed and happy December and the most peaceful and healthy New Year. As we wrap up a remarkable year, we should reflect on what transpired, who we are and who we should be. There is nothing better than a beautiful quote from an ancient lyric poet, Pindar: “Σκιάς όναρ άνθρωπος.” “A man/woman is the dream of a shadow. Not a shadow. Not a dream. A dream of a shadow…”
Panayiotis (Panos) N. Varelas, MD, PhD, FAAN, FNCS
President, NCS Board of Directors
Professor of Neurology and Chairman, Department of Neurology
Albany Medical College