Letter From the JCTS Editor: The Summer That Wasn't
I think we can all agree that the summer of 2020 has been one for the history books. It certainly has disappeared in a haze. All of a sudden it is gone and we seem stuck almost at the same place as before with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time many parts of the country have faced immense hardship due to weather calamities, being record winds, one-of-a-century hurricanes or record number of wildfires due to unprecedented heat and drought. For those of us living in the western United States it has indeed been a remarkable year. For my part I vividly remember the smoke-filled, darkened skies over Sacramento almost two years ago when whole towns barely to the north of us went up in flames. We worried about the safety not only of all the citizens in harm’s way but also of our medical students completing rural rotations, and some had to evacuate at a moment’s notice. The university and the medical school canceled classes to protect our students from environmental hazards – at that time this seemed like a novelty. We were hoping this would not be repeated but we now have had a whole month of the same – wildfires consuming vast number of homes, people having to flee at a moment’s notice and record evacuations throughout the west. For those of us lucky enough not to lose our lives or our homes, the smoke and the incredibly poor air quality have kept us inside and present a lingering health hazard (on top of COVID-19). Some days certainly had an apocalyptic flavor.
While there have been plenty of discussions of what might trigger these events, I think at this point it would be futile to deny that climate change contributes. These changes are likely to have long-term health consequences and as translational researchers it is high time to link up with our colleagues in other disciplines to address these types of challenges in a comprehensive fashion. While such efforts are under way, a strong focus on health is warranted as changes in the spectrum of infectious diseases, long-term effects to wildfire exposure and their impact on vulnerable populations present pressing challenges. At this point it does not seem a safe bet to assume that 2020 will represent an off year and that we will not be facing similar challenges in coming years. The translational community and the CTSAs are in an excellent position to take the lead in such efforts as they have the resources and expertise to meet the challenge --community engagement, clinical research resources, experienced informatics teams, tested national networks and perhaps most important, leadership and workforce focused on team science. Health consequences of climate change are a subject that JCTS would be interested in exploring and I invite interested parties to submit reports addressing such questions, perhaps even as a thematic issue.
Continuing on thematic issues, JCTS will be publishing our second thematic issue in coming months, this one focused on rural health, a very timely issue, and I am deeply indebted to Michael Kurilla and Chris Austin at NCATS who served as guest editors. They have assembled 15 very interesting papers illustrating various aspects related to rural health and I strongly recommend everyone to look at these. Contributions include reports on technology to facilitate participation in research studies, mental health issues and opioids, digital health, cancer screening and socioeconomic factors affecting health. As of 2021, JCTS will transition to a continuous publication system without designated issues. We will still have thematic issues and they will be available as organized thematic collections of publications identified on the journal website – a system used by a number of other journals as well. We have already a number of thematic issues under way and I warmly encourage colleagues who are interested to approach us about ideas.
As we approach the fall and schools, colleges and universities starting their activities, we wish everyone the best. By working together and by taking common-sense precautions, we have a real chance to turn the curve, to use a term we are all familiar with. On my end, I remain an optimist and hope that the next letter can be framed in lighter terms.
Lars Berglund, M.D., Ph.D.
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Clinical and Translational Science (JCTS)
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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.
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