Letter From the JCTS Editor: The Summer That Wasn't
The Fall is under normal circumstances a wonderful time – colors changing, the harvest season in full swing and academically it is usually one of the most productive periods of the year. This year however there seems to be a global sense of apprehension in the air as some countries are experiencing a so-called second wave, and in some cases perhaps even a third wave, of COVID infections. At the same time patience is starting to run thin in large segments of the population, almost irrespective of country or region, and many just want to get to the other side of the whole issue with COVID going away. This feeling is probably not all that much different from the situation 700 years ago during the time of the plague, known as the Black Death. The question may be what we have learned regarding principles of prevention and quarantine. Many basic principles remain unchanged – masking, avoiding crowds, maintaining physical distancing and use of common sense, although the latter may perhaps not be as common as the expression suggests. As all of us around the world are in this together, this would seem to be a good time to take advantage of international experiences, in particular as different models of managing the infection have been used globally.
As part of the Swedish diaspora, I have found it fascinating to note the growing global interest in the Swedish approach to COVID. It recently reached the editorial pages of the Economist as “The land of the mask-free”. Perhaps in contrast to some other countries, a sizeable element of trust exists between citizenry and government, making it somewhat more doable to achieve adherence to national policies. At the same time, Sweden has always been characterized as the country of “lagom”, or in English, “just enough”, so the compact between citizenry and authorities depends on carefully measured decrees without the use of brute force from above. We recently had the opportunity at UC Davis to engage in a discussion of COVID approaches with Swedish colleagues and the differences between our settings may be less than suspected. On the plus side, mortality and morbidity is now considerably lower in Sweden when compared to the summer. However, everywhere, people are worn out, regular citizens as well as health care providers, and also in Sweden there is some trepidation of what the coming months may bring. The take home message from the discussion was the value of comparing experiences and this opportunity to learn from differences in public health approaches. Public engagement is also probably not fully realized everywhere, although there may perhaps be more shared communication with regard to clinical trials and vaccine development. On the domestic side, one comparison that promises some interesting insights would be to dissect the development and actions taken in two states with roughly the same population and characterized by rural settings. At this point in time, there is a 15-fold difference in COVID cases between Vermont and North Dakota, and the trajectories continue to divide.
One thing that seems somewhat underdeveloped in many places is the engagement of patient and community organizations, in shaping the response to and prevention of COVID infections. The CTSA institutions were early adopters of community engagement programs and virtually all have now robust Community Advisory Boards, entities that would seem very appropriate to serve as key stakeholders for all things COVID. Clearly, a role for a strong community voice is not novel. One lesson from the HIV epidemic was the positive influence of patient advocates and activists in pressing for advancement of scientific research into underlying causes and mechanisms as well as identification of intervention strategies. It may be time to relearn some of these lessons, and the translational community firmly linking community members and scientists has much to offer in this regard. Arriving at jointly embraced solutions that are well grounded in communities seems likely to enhance a message of togetherness and resolve.
Lars Berglund, M.D., Ph.D.
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Clinical and Translational Science (JCTS)
Join us Thursday, October 29 at 12:00 pm CST for "Integrating Diverse Populations in Research: Perils, Pitfalls, and Promise." In this 90 minute session, Florencia Gonzalez, MPH, Alejandra Hurtado de Mendoza, PhD, and Carla Williams, PhD will describe how research can be enhanced through expanded representation of diversity and consideration of multiple cultural identities, and enhance capacity for language access and linguistic competence in health research.
Click here to register. ACTS institutional and individual members can attend this live webinar for free. There is a $10 cost for non-member early career investigators, and $15 cost for non-members.
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Translational Science 2021
There is still time to submit a session proposal or abstract to Translational Science 2021! The opportunities to help our community make research more impactful are endless. We can't wait to see what insights you will share.
Session proposals are due Friday, October 30 and abstract presentations are due Wednesday, December 2. Visit our website for more information.
Journal of Clinical and Translational Science
Volume 4 / Issue 4 of the Journal of Clinical and Translational Science is now available online!
JCTS's mission is to provide a forum for the rapid communication of topics of interest and relevance to the large and diverse community of clinical and translational scientists with the goal of improving the efficiency with which health needs inform research and new diagnostics, therapies, and preventive measures reach the public. The Association for Clinical and Translational Science has partnered with the American Physician Scientists Association (APSA) and the Clinical Research Forum (CRF) to support the growth and development of JCTS.
Submit your article today to be featured in future issues of JCTS! Please also visit the JCTS website for information on our themed issue related to Design, Development, Evaluation, and Dissemination of Team Science Interventions in Clinical and Translational Research.
Translational Science Today
Children's museum launches 'Sofia' exhibit
Research News By ELLEN GOLDBAUM A video game version of "Sofia Learns About Research," the children's activity and coloring book that presents research in a fun, age-appropriate way, has arrived at Explore & More - The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr....