My son, Seth, gave me Albert Camus’, “The Plague,” a few weeks ago. Camus was a French philosopher and author who was awarded the 1957 Nobel Prize for Literature. The Plague, which was written in 1947, tells the story of an epidemic sweeping through the Algerian city of Oran. Early in the novel, the narrator remarks that “[the townspeople] forgot to be modest…and thought everything was still possible for them; which presupposed that pestilences were impossible. They fancied themselves free, and no one will ever be free so long as there are pestilences.”
All of you work so hard to rid our world of pestilences affecting children. You teach students, care for patients, advocate for policies, investigate outbreaks, lead health systems, unlock new aspects of biology and pathogenesis, implement new cures, and discover new vaccines and therapies. Together, PIDS is an organization, and organism, made of many parts, working together to accomplish our goal of reducing the burden of infectious diseases worldwide.
I also know that in pursuit of these goals, we can burn out. Therefore, as we head into summer, I’m asking you to do three things. I hope that each is possible for you, and if PIDS can support you in any way, please let me know.
- Read something interesting. We are more than what we do for a living; therefore, find something non-medical that interests you and commit to finishing that book over the summer. Recent books from my shelf include, “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” (Comer), “The Plague” (Camus), “The Righteous Mind” (Haidt), or “Shackleton’s Way” (Morell). Each of these has given me new insights into either myself, other people, or the world around me.
- Talk to someone about a challenging topic. This one is, admittedly, strange, but I encourage you to find those people in your life with whom you know that you disagree and spend some time thinking through a topic together. Whether it’s a hot-button political issue (plenty to choose from) or even a locally challenging issue (e.g., should we build a new football stadium), create space to have a discussion that seeks first to understand. If we are to serve our patients and families well, we will benefit from being able to see complicated issues from multiple viewpoints. I think it also serves as an antidote to cynicism and division that characterizes many of our communities right now.
- Take a real holiday. I hope this is possible for every member of PIDS this summer. A real vacation probably means setting your out of office reply, committing to turning off your phone alerts/email notifications about work, and potentially turning off social media or other distractions that keep you from resting and recharging. Our work is important, and it is best done when we, ourselves, are rested and energized.
Thanks for all that you do for PIDS, the families you serve, and the communities around you. We are in pursuit of nothing less than freedom from pestilence for every child in the world.
Onward and upward, Buddy