SER President’s Message

Since I last wrote an SER President’s Message, the COVID-19 pandemic has touched all corners of the earth. In early March, attention was mostly directed to infectious disease epidemiology. Here we are 9 weeks later and the pandemic has seemingly touched all corners of epidemiology. The scope of COVID-19-related epidemiologic research has exploded. Just looking at the categories of SER abstract submissions, it is clear the pandemic’s surge and wake has an impact on all of them. A handful of examples from the lay press overlap with the epidemiology of: Aging (isolation and loneliness), Environment (decreased air pollution), Health Services (telemedicine), Mental Health (rise in calls to crisis centers), Neurology (loss of taste and smell), Occupation (is it safe to return to work?), Pharmacoepidemiology (Trump’s promotion of hydroxychloroquine), Violence (increased domestic violence). The full gamut of epidemiology methods are being deployed to study pandemic-related issues, with surveillance at the forefront, an abundance of natural experiments close behind, and the hope of vaccine trials soon to come. There is no shortage of study populations for epidemiologists to target, but the sad truth is that the most marginalized populations are experiencing the worst of this pandemic. In the US, for example, Black and Hispanic persons have disproportionately higher rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths, further lengthening the long list of health disparities suffered by people of color. Amidst pleas for a return to normal, I heard a woman on the radio (whose name I didn’t catch and therefore can’t give appropriate credit to and who I must paraphrase) say she didn’t want us to return to ‘normal’ because ‘normal’ isn’t good for too many people. Her sentiment has stuck with me, as I hope for the pandemic’s silver linings to manifest as a better, fairer world. The media is also full of stories of true heroism and acts of compassion and generosity, which do indeed bolster my confidence that we’ll emerge kinder, smarter, and stronger. With epidemiology at the core! Thanks to all of you who are working to help us understand how we can shape a ‘new normal’ that is healthier for all.