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March 11, 2021

Best of Times, Worst of Times

Charles Dickens must have seen 2020 when he wrote the opening to A Tale of Two Cities.

Between the challenges already facing emergency medicine and the impact
of a pandemic, this year has been a tremendous opportunity to rediscover
the value of emergency medicine. With that in mind, I would like to reverse
Dickens’ classic lines.

“It was the worst of times” – we’ve seen breakdowns in our fragile health systems at many levels. We have seen widespread disease without access to sufficient mitigation and protection. The results have been more suffering and death than we could have imagined. Add the social isolation many of us have experienced, and we are all affected in countless ways.

“It was the best of times” – emergency physicians showed our strength of commitment and purpose. We are doing what we do. To paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt, we are in the arena, striving to do the deeds, spending ourselves in a worthy cause, and our place will never be with those timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

“It was the age of foolishness” – our communities have never been more divided, and
scientists’ voices have too often been challenged or ignored. Despite the continued
worldwide pandemic, the politics of our efforts as a country have overshadowed the
practice. This divisiveness also simply prolongs the ability to recover from this year.

“It was the age of wisdom” – and it still is. I’ve not seen a time when so many have
come together to work on solutions. Though I would not wish to go through this type
of crisis again, it’s highly likely that we will. And as emergency physicians, this is
when we need to be at our best.

Thank you for being at your best every day. There has never been a time when
I’ve been more proud to be part of the emergency medicine community.


William P. Jaquis, MD, FACEP
ACEP President, October 2019 - October 2020

Read more: This letter is part of ACEP's 2020 Annual Report, taking a look back at the way we responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. View the full report or watch the video recap.

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