John M. Costello, MD, MPH
Vice Chair of Clinical Research, Department of Pediatrics
Director of Research, Children’s Heart Center
Professor of Pediatrics
Medical University of South Carolina
I hope this issue of the PCICS Newsletter finds all of you, your families, and your colleagues well during these unprecedented times. Since the most recent newsletter in April, the world’s response to COVID-19 has shifted from a phase of substantial shut down to reopening in a “new normal” fashion, and the ongoing challenges with social justice have been receiving renewed and much-needed attention. Your PCICS leadership team has been actively addressing both of these issues as they relate to our Society, and I would like to give you a high-level overview of our current approach.
I will first address our response to the pandemic. During the June virtual meeting of the Board of Directors, we made a final decision to transition our December 2020 International Meeting to a pure virtual format. While we have been carefully considering this issue for several months, at the end of the day, the decision was not difficult. We surveyed our members and found that the vast majority would be unable or unwilling to attend an in-person meeting this December. We know from this survey and other sources that many hospital systems have banned professional travel through at least the end of this calendar year due to a combination of safety and financial concerns. More importantly, the Board felt it would be irresponsible to hold any form of an in-person meeting given the potential that doing so could compromise the safety of our attendees, the patients and staff in their respective children’s hospitals when they returned to work, and their families. Now that this decision is behind us, the Program Committee is focusing their full efforts on producing a high-quality and dynamic virtual meeting this December. Final details will be available shortly; you will not want to miss it! Other efforts directly related to the pandemic include our ongoing support of the COVID-19 Multicenter CICU Response Webinars (in collaboration with our colleagues at Children’s National Medical Center) and the PCICS COVID-19 message board (to join this message board, please email Lee Claassen, PCICS Executive Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Social justice has garnered well-deserved and renewed international attention in light of a number of recent deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police in the United States. It is evident to the PCICS Board of Directors that opportunities for improvement in this space exist within our society and our field. For example, in many pediatric cardiac intensive care units, the workforce demographics do not reflect the population of patients that we serve. Within pediatric cardiology and cardiac surgery, number of large, observational studies have found that non-white race is an independent risk factor for adverse outcomes. The Board is currently focusing on steps that we as a Society can take to advance social justice to benefit our members, our field, and the patients we serve. We are establishing a new and permanent Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee which will be charged with shaping the activities of our Board and other standing Committees in order to improve diversity and justice within our Society and our field. We anticipate this Committee’s efforts will lead to greater parity in leadership opportunities within the Society and faculty roles at our international meetings, and new awareness initiatives, among others approaches. Further details about this new Committee and opportunities to participate will be shared with all members shortly. We welcome your feedback as to how best to proceed.
As always, I welcome your thoughts as to additional approaches the Society could consider to help mitigate the pandemic’s impact on pediatric cardiac intensive care, and how we can best proceed on the incredibly important issue of social and racial justice.
John M. Costello, M.D., M.P.H.