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February 2022 President's Update: Planning for the Future While Staying Safe

By Currents Editor posted 02-02-2022 16:32


By Panayiotis (Panos) N. Varelas, MD, PhD, FAAN, FNCS

Planning for the Future While Staying Safe

As we are heading towards February, the world here in Albany and for many colleagues up north, is a snowy white world and a world of scarcity. Behind the windows I was looking at the birds and squirrels next to each other devouring the seeds that my wife and I have thrown out in our snow-filled yard of 2 below zero Fahrenheit. These little creatures survive the harsh winter as we, in a warmer enclosure, survive the letters of the Greek Alphabet: Delta, Omicron, and who knows what’s next.

It is not over. Last week I was in the Neuro-ICU and almost half of the rooms were in isolation, either because the patients tested positive or had been exposed to somebody who tested positive. It went donning PPEs, doffing PPEs the entire week. It was physically and emotionally exhausting and I am sure the same has been true for all of you lately.

Not a good time to think about anything else. But we should. Here at NCS, there have been so many activities happening after the Annual Meeting. Reviewing the finances, was it as bad of a year as Nostradamus had predicted? Preparing and finalizing the new budget — how much should we delve into our investments? Populating and structuring the Committees, seeking new faces and diverse blood instead of same old, same old. Communicating with other Societies and Global Partners — should we go to conferences around the world and visit in-person or as light-fast electrons? What are the right educational products we should develop for an audience that spans different continents, with different languages, different resources, and different experiences? Are the key performance indicators (KPIs) we created last year good enough to capture and filter the information?

But most importantly, the three-year Strategic Plan has to be accomplished by the end of this year. This herculean plan has, as you know, three major goals: Research and Funding (almost one hundred percent of tasks are either on target or completed), Education, Training and Leadership (six tasks completed, thirteen on track, five not started yet) and Brand Strength (twelve tasks completed, eleven on track and five not started yet). The major accomplishments so far are from the first goal: the creation of the Neurocritical Care Foundation, and the support of the Curing Coma® Campaign, which is ongoing, on track and has had great success. An equally important accomplishment was ABPN's first-ever NCC exam last October. I saw many of you passed the exam. Now it is time to create ACGME-accredited fellowships. This is a hot topic, with ongoing communications between NCS and ACGME, which I will address next month.

But where are we going from here? Where should the next Strategic Plan take us? We will start on the development of the new plan this year. Should it be a three-year plan, a five-year plan, or even shorter? In these times of uncertainty, with the pandemic raging, what really is a five-year plan or three-year plan? We will discuss these questions at the March Board of Directors Meeting.

Before that, I would like to hear from you. Please click here and complete a one-question survey stating what you think is important or crucial for the society to sail the winds of the future and to the safe port where land should be.

I’ll finish with two remarks: as we are approaching Valentine’s Day and as it had been during the Christmas holidays, it is imperative for all of us to remember to keep our distance and follow the CDC protocols. We all long for the days when we could hug and kiss the people we love and care for. We are social creatures and will not change an evolution that lasted millions of years in two or three years. But we are also tired, burned out, working longer hours, and possibly covering for colleagues who are recovering. Let’s be mindful of these risks of getting sick and making other people sick, including our loved ones. We have a tremendous responsibility as Neuro-ICU health care providers working with the sickest of the sick for being healthy, treat and help them. If we go down, who would be left?

Prometheus was a semi-God, a Titan, who stole the fire from Gods, gave it to humans and taught them art, agriculture, and science. Thus, he is considered the father of civilization. For this crime, Zeus chained him on a mountain, where every day Zeus’ eagle was coming and eating his liver. As we know, the liver can regenerate and this is what was happening every night, with the eagle coming back in the morning and the cycle repeating. The greatest of the ancient dramaturgists, Aeschylus, wrote the tragedy Prometheus Bound, where he states “Κρείσσον γαρ εισάπαξ θανείν ή τας απάσας ημέρας πάσχειν κακώς.” It is better for someone to die once and for all, than suffer badly all his days. As health care providers in the ICU, our goal is to treat and keep our patients alive, but we should also remember Medicine in 2022 has its limitations and that we have an equal obligation to them not to prolong death instead of prolonging life…


Panayiotis (Panos) N. Varelas, MD, PhD, FAAN, FNCS
President, NCS Board of Directors
Professor of Neurology and Chairman, Department of Neurology
Albany Medical College


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