It is hard to believe the fall is upon us. Out here in California, there is a feeling of excitement mixed with anxiety as children return to classrooms with masks, testing, modified quarantine protocols, and a whole range of new approaches in place aimed at keeping them in classrooms despite the pandemic. Cars are covered in ash, the moon is a pale orange at night, and my daughter takes a KN95 with her everywhere, not only in case she goes inside a store but also in case the air quality takes a turn for the worse. This is not the fall I had imagined when I received my vaccine at the FEMA site at the Oakland Coliseum this spring, but this is our reality. On the other hand, I am struck by the continuing stores of flexibility and innovation that we are drawing upon individually and collectively to make things work. I am heartened by our ability to make new social connections even when we can only see each other’s eyes. I hope you are each able to find your way through this complicated time, allowing yourself the space to process both the challenges and the unexpected highlights, and drawing on support from each other.
The executive committee of SER has been busily working to plan activities for the next year and I want to highlight one change you many have noticed as part of conference submissions. SER is committed to increasing diversity, equity and inclusion in our society activities and in the field of epidemiology more broadly. The SER executive committee and diversity and inclusion committee consider feedback from the SER diversity survey and related articles on an ongoing basis (https://academic.oup.com/aje/pages/diversity-and-inclusion-collection). Your participation and candid feedback in these surveys is invaluable, so we thank you for taking part. The most recent survey was distributed August 3 – please see this link if you did not yet have a chance to participate (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CT22GGK). We also greatly appreciate the engagement of the community as shown in the outpouring of constructive feedback in the AJE commentaries (available at the link above). In the past, we have highlighted the importance of diversity in symposia and other conference proposals as part of the instructions. This year, we took the additional step of requiring that submissions for symposia, professional development, breakfast and lunchtime sessions all explain how they have considered diversity (for example, by institution, career stage, areas of expertise, and socio-demographic backgrounds, including gender, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, country of origin, and socio-economic status) in putting together the topic and speakers. This is one of several approaches we have been discussing to improve diversity, equity and inclusion at SER events, and we look forward to your feedback on this and other initiatives as we move forward. Please contact SER Executive Director, Sue Bevan (firstname.lastname@example.org) with feedback.
I am honored and excited to work with all of you as President of SER over the next year. We certainly have yet more challenges ahead, but I remain confident in our ability to navigate effectively through these times drawing on the strength of our collective ideas and capacities.