Challenges, Optimism Continue in New Year

Bottom Line: Together, we can embrace 2021 and shrink the gaps that threaten children’s health.

The one-year anniversary of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States brings reflections on last year’s challenges, which few of us anticipated, and none of us want to relive. 

With 2.5 million children in the United States infected with SARS-CoV-2 during the pandemic, pediatricians faced inadequate protective equipment, disrupted practices, furloughed staff, and delayed or missed well-child care. Many pediatricians risked their own mental and physical health by looking after patients and families.

COVID-19 also exposed profound weaknesses in our health care system, especially the pervasive health care inequities. Then, while COVID-19 sparked a greater awareness of health care inequities, George Floyd's death in May illuminated systemic racism and inspired widespread commitments to change. 

I deeply admire the many ways board-certified pediatricians not only overcame these challenges but improved the care of children in the midst of crisis. Unquestionably, with determination, innovation, and focus, they have saved lives. 

Some pediatricians adapted to the COVID-19 outbreak with telemedicine and house calls -- or more accurately, driveway visits. They diagnosed, treated, and vaccinated children in parking lots. They found new ways to reassure families. And they monitored and treated mental health conditions brought about by the stress of disease, social unrest, isolation, boredom, and natural disasters. You can read some of their stories in our 2020 Annual Report, which will be available online in March.

Despite the rapid change that was thrust upon us all in 2020, pediatricians have demonstrated our profession’s highest ideals that will surely carry on into 2021. Yet disease prevention, mental health care, and health equity remain glaring gaps to be closed in the entire U.S. health care system. 

The determination to work on behalf of healthier children remains palpable, and I am optimistic that, together, we can embrace 2021 and shrink the gaps. 



About the Author

David G. Nichols, MD, MBA

David G. Nichols, MD, MBA, is the President and CEO of the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP). As leader of the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) staff and a member of the nonprofit organization's Board of Directors, Dr. Nichols actively promotes high-quality health care for children by upholding the standards of certification in pediatrics and by encouraging and facilitating initiatives in quality improvement. Although he assumed his new leadership role in late 2012, he has been associated with the ABP for more than 20 years. He is board certified in General Pediatrics and is board certified and maintaining certification in Pediatric Critical Care Medicine.