America is strong on Thanksgiving two years after COVID

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America is strong on Thanksgiving two years after COVID

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As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week with friends and family, I am reminded that we truly have much to be thankful for. Our country has come through a multi-year pandemic, staggering inflation, and a contentious election meant to try to further divide our country. While we hold separate belief systems, political affiliations, and values, there may be no better lens into what makes America than through a health care lens.

As a health care leader, I’m strengthened daily knowing that our staff, physicians, and volunteers continue to serve a fighting American spirit. Our patients come to us at their worst physically – and in some cases mentally – but through compassionate and skilled care they are given another opportunity to lead lives of purpose and meaning.   

A team of health care workers in 2020 during the height of the COVID pandemic.

A team of health care workers in 2020 during the height of the COVID pandemic.

The great thing about being in health care is we see individuals from all walks of life with varying backgrounds and needs. Despite the differences, we have a shared common goal: help our patients get better and overcome their challenges. 

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What makes me so optimistic about our country is that there is more that binds us together as human beings and members of a community than what separates us.

Over the past year, I have spoken with other hospital executives and almost all of them have generally the same refrain: we came through a pandemic because of the compassion, human kindness and care we showed our fellow women and men. 

There were very dark days during the pandemic. There were some days when I’m sure our staff questioned whether or not they could continue. There was physical fatigue, mental fatigue, loneliness, isolation and sadness, yet health care professionals pushed on, like those who were impacted by COVID-19

Hospital workers process COVID-19 tests at a hospital in Aiea, Hawaii, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021. 

Hospital workers process COVID-19 tests at a hospital in Aiea, Hawaii, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021. 

The level of loss was real and the ripple effects that illness from COVID-19 had on our society will carry a long tail. But while it shows the worst of America, it also shows us the best of America. It shows us that our fighting spirit is unwavering in the face of a crisis. 

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Over the past year, I have spoken with other hospital executives and almost all of them have generally the same refrain: we came through a pandemic because of the compassion, human kindness, and care we showed our fellow women and men. 

A nurse prepares to administer a COVID vaccine.

A nurse prepares to administer a COVID vaccine.
(REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo)

Our country banded together in service to each other. We took extra shifts. We made sacrifices for the care and well-being of others. That sacrifice that Americans are willing to make for each other is what makes our country so special.  

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As we enjoy a holiday meal with family and friends, I will count my blessings that we live in a country where despite our differences, we believe in service to each other. While our values of hard work, grit and determination are always on display, we value our community and believe in the greater good. 

On this Thanksgiving, I hope you’ll join me in giving thanks for all of those who serve our country.  

T. Douglas Lawson, PhD is Chief Executive Officer of St. Luke’s Health in Houston, Texas and Senior Vice President COO at Commonspirit Health.