“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” —Lady Bird Johnson
As my first spring as dean of BSOM and a resident of Southwest Ohio unfolds, change is afoot. The weather is warming up, and we await the emergence of the Brood X cicadas. As more of us become fully vaccinated, COVID cases are slowly decreasing and hospitalizations and ICU admissions are declining more significantly, reflecting the effectiveness of the vaccines. We are beginning to be able to have both small in-person meetings and larger outdoor gatherings. Although, unlike the cicadas, we haven’t been underground for an entire 17 years, it sometimes feels that way, and it’s so refreshing to get to meet everyone in person!
I’m so pleased that we were ultimately able to have commencement in person after planning for a hybrid approach initially. The ceremony, held in the Wright State University Nutter Center, was less intimate than usual, with less participation of faculty and staff, but importantly, each graduate was able to cross the stage, be hooded, and receive their diploma in person with their “pod" of guests. It was an incredibly joyous day, and, to me, it felt like a real turning point in envisioning a new normal as we emerge into a safer phase of the pandemic.
Last Thursday, I spoke at a town hall meeting in which I shared the plans for returning to campus. We have learned much about our ability to work and conduct school operations remotely this year, yet we all realize what has been lost—the “warm fuzzies” as I call them—from working with team members and students. Those connections are what make our medical education community special, and so we are planning for a safe return to a new normal—in person, on campus, to be completed by July 19, when the new school year begins. At the same time, though, we realize that the old model of Monday through Friday, in person from 8 or 9 to 5 doesn’t provide the flexibility for a good balance of life and work. So, we talked about allowing four days in the office and one day working from home to be the new norm for most. For others whose job allows for more remote work, there is a human resource policy, and these decisions will be made on a work-unit basis with approval of the supervisor and the dean.
During a May survey, we learned that the BSOM community has an overall vaccination rate of 76 percent! Outstanding! And, among those not yet fully vaccinated, half said they would be by July. That is amazing news and provides a lot of reassurance. Given the CDC’s recent change in guidance about mask wearing for vaccinated individuals, we will be making further decisions about protocols for the medical school buildings soon, in conjunction with the university administration, and I promise to keep you updated. In the meantime, if you have not yet been vaccinated, please make an appointment soon!
Spring is always a hopeful time. This year, that is truer than ever. We are planning some in-person welcome back events for students, staff, and faculty, so stay tuned. Come the new school year, I will be dividing my time between my office on the third floor of the Wright State Physicians building and a new office in White Hall, and I look forward to bumping into you on my travels. Be sure to say hello!
Once again, thank you all so much for everything you’ve done to protect the mission of BSOM during this tumultuous year.
Valerie Weber, M.D., M.S.