By Panayiotis (Panos) N. Varelas, MD, PhD, FAAN, FNCS
Looking Ahead to a New Year
As we leave behind a remarkable year and 2022 reaches our shores, I have started thinking — what should we continue and what should we change in this new year
The easy answer is, of course, that we would like to get rid of COVID and return to normalcy. Easier said than done. But we are heading toward that direction with more people having access to vaccination and deciding to explore it. At the same time, we see surges of cases in our hospitals, but the patients seem less sick, and probably fewer end up in the ICU. The unknown is that we may continue naming new variants following the Greek alphabet to the end. But we are at omicron these days, which means that between the delta and “O,” there have been other variants we’ve never heard of. Probably mutations and Greek letters not worthy to reach the news. I am not sure, but that is probably a good thing for an ever-changing virus.
Despite the fatigue and burnout, we must continue taking care of our sick patients in the neuro ICUs with the same dedication and altruism as ever before. As I told you in my presidential lecture at the Annual Meeting in Chicago, these are the days to remember and the heroic tales that will be narrated to our children and grandchildren when the time comes. This is our Shakespearian St. Crispin’s day!
We also should consider the hybrid meeting option for 2022 and beyond. Last year, we gained experience with this new model and saw the advantages of having in-person interactions at the same time as virtual interactions with Annual Meeting attendees who participated remotely, no matter where they were located in the world. It has been pretty revealing to me that everyone I met in Chicago, from members to exhibitors, felt ecstatic about the face-to-face contact. We are social animals, and we will remain as such despite all internets and cell phones!
And we should keep the Society growing. Support the Neurocritical Care Foundation. Open paths for those minority or underrepresented groups to emerge, participate and have a voice within our multidisciplinary and open NCS. Continue Curing Coma®. Cultivate relationships with colleagues from other societies and from far beyond North America and Europe. Differentiate ourselves with the new ACGME certification, and create new accredited programs in the U.S. ENLS 5.0® is another great educational and branding tool for us. Educate the world about who we are, about our values and how we treat our patients. And help others!
I will finish this first letter of 2022 with a personal story and the usual ancient quote. As I was recently telling the board, I sat for the NCC ACGME exam in October. It was not easy to sit in front of a screen and fully concentrate for five hours while wearing a mask and rebreathing the CO2. You will say, “These are excuses in case you fail to pass!” Well, it is not easy anymore. I’ve entered my 60s and although I’ve gained tremendous experience in the NICU over the years, the years have also left me behind on some new developments. Who can remember all these new genes, receptors and biological paths? All these new studies with the fancy names? Ha, what should I do if I fail the exam while serving as president of the Society! Zip it, tell nobody and sit again in 2022? Announce it, apologize as a good politician would and keep on going? Resign? Well, as a little anxiety was building up, the results came this week. I had passed! Now I could face myself in the mirror and say: “You are a dually certified neurointensivist!” I wish this happy ending to all of you who have sat or are soon sitting for the exam!
Plutarch was a late Greek historian and philosopher best known for his “Parallel Lives,” where he biographed famous ancient Greeks and Romans. A little more than 2,000 years ago, Plutarch said something very relevant to what we discuss with families every day in the neuro ICU: “Μέτρον βίου το καλόν ου το του χρόνου μήκος.” “The measure of life is its quality (how good it was), not its length in time.”
Happy COVID-free, healthy, peaceful New Year for all!
Panayiotis (Panos) N. Varelas, MD, PhD, FAAN, FNCS
President, NCS Board of Directors
Professor of Neurology and Chairman, Department of Neurology
Albany Medical College