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President's Column 

excerpt from December 2020 Heartbeat


As we approach the end of 2020 I imagine most of you will join me in saying “goodbye and good riddance”. To say this past year has been extraordinary would be an understatement. It has been difficult beyond words, for some of you more difficult than the rest of us can even imagine. The combination of a global pandemic killing hundreds of thousands of people worldwide with the associated economic catastrophic downturn mixed in with severe political partisanship amid social unrest has left a deep chasm of destruction behind us as we move toward 2021. Let us hope that there can be positive progress on all fronts in the year to come.    

Among the detritus of this past year can be found those uplifting moments that accompany many major tragedies. Stories of the immense power of the human spirit, ever present no matter the circumstances. Partners and friends covering for one another, food drives, shared lessons learned while navigating the new normal of teleconferences for medical appointments. The sense of community with people of all walks of life stepping up to volunteer, to help, to heal. Parents both complaining about and yet appreciating the added time they have with their children. The bonds of friendship held tightly over Zoom calls as we celebrated the wonders of life. Staying connected as best we could despite being disconnected; a hidden smile beneath a mask that burned brightly in the eyes of a friend or colleague as they asked how we were doing these days. And they really meant it.

So we soldiered forward. Moving through the days, weeks, and months wondering when things would get better, when these difficult times would be behind us. Perhaps it is fitting as we enter the holiday season having just passed Thanksgiving that some good news may be forthcoming. Three separate vaccines have shown great promise. We may see the first allotment in mid December if all goes well. The State of Alaska has been hard at work and stands ready to distribute vaccine throughout the State when available. We are far ahead of other states in this regard, perhaps a bit of homage to the great serum run which gave birth to the Iditarod race. Our own Dr. Jay Butler, previous Alaska CMO now at the CDC, recently gave an excellent presentation discussing current topics with COVID-19 and vaccines. This will soon be available on the ASMA website. We also continue to run the COVID-19 provider hotline through ASMA volunteers in close coordination with the State. That number too can be found at our website.

Some other good news to help with the burden of our current times: The State of Alaska has extended the medical license renewal to April 1, 2021 as well as reduced the CME requirements for the current cycle.

I look forward to 2021 with hope. Hope brought on by the potential for a successful vaccine along with efficient distribution to all those who wish to be vaccinated. Hope born of the continued compassion, dedication, determination, and skills of the people I see and the stories I hear from throughout the State. Hope born from a strong medical community that despite the challenges before us, we will effectively meet them with graceful competency.

Our current reality is a difficult one. The national and local status surrounding COVID-19 is the worst it has ever been. Numbers in and out of the hospitals continue to climb, putting a huge burden upon our entire health care system. There are tough times ahead. But there are tough, capable, enduring people ready to face those challenges. These are the people at the State, city, community, and village level that give me strength. And hope. 

With the curtain call of 2020 approaching take care everyone. Continue with your amazing work. Encourage your patients to do the same and to help us all as a community with practicing those simple measures we know help fight the spread of SARS-CoV-2:  Wearing masks, social distancing, limited interactions. Your patients know and trust you. They are looking for some decisive clarity these days. Should you need help, advice, a sounding board, or just want to chat please reach out. Burdens are often more easily overcome when approached from multiple angles.

During this time of giving thanks, thank you all for all you do to take care of the people of Alaska.  

Stay safe. Happy Holidays and may we all have a Happy New Year.


Steve Sivils, DO, is a pediatric anesthesiologist in Anchorage and the president of the Alaska State Medical Association.