The COVID-19 pandemic: A time of celebration for ColoradoSPH, and too many reminders of hatred’s deadly consequencesMay 24, 2022
Convocation 2022 is outdoors, a safe environment, and takes place at a moment in the pandemic when the curve is rising, albeit not precipitously. For perspective, last week’s statewide hospitalization count was 144, about double the low of 77 during the week of April 12, but far lower than previous highs that exceeded 1,800. Wearing an N95 or KN95 respirator offers protection for those who may be uncomfortable with a large gathering.
As the Colorado School of Public Health heads towards its 15th year, some in our community are retiring after years of dedication to the school and (for some) to our predecessor department. They will be honored at Wednesday’s Awards and Recognition Brunch: Gary Grunwald, John Hokanson, Kathy Kennedy, Robin Kimbrough-Melton, Lisa Miller, Kelly Moore, Carol Runyan, Greg Schaffer, Lori Van Langenhoven, and Bettina-Martine Warden at CU Anschutz; and Ernie Chavez at Colorado State University. Lisa Miller is the 2022 recipient of the Dean’s Special Recognition Award, reflecting her decades of contributions to advancing public health in Colorado through her work with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the school.
With sadness, I note the death of Bill Marine, a pillar in the school’s history. Bill joined the Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics in 1975. He founded and directed the Residency in Preventive Medicine and was a leader in public health education. Bill and his wife Susan generously endowed the William M. Marine Endowment for the Preventive Medicine Residency Fund. Bill will not be forgotten.
I write these comments as my first vacation in three years ends—a cycling trip in Croatia and a brief visit to Mostar and Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Balkans have a long and complicated history, as a region where East and West meet and religions overlap: Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, and Muslim. There have been moments and places of peaceful co-existence, but also of deadly conflict driven by ethnic and national hatred. Wars and genocides followed the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. I remember the years of reporting from the region—the horrors that took place, and my confusion as to the warring groups and their motivations. This recent trip advanced my understanding of the region and reminded me of the genocides, the hatred, and nationalism that drove them, and the war criminals who led them.
For some haters, witness the Balkan conflicts, hatred is a reason to kill. Sadly, overt hatred is ever more prominent in the United States and some other countries where nationalism, ethnocentrism, and racism are unchecked. Promotion of hatred has turned into a successful and tolerated political strategy and has become industrialized; see this New York Times feature on Tucker Carlson as a disturbing example. Three horrific events over the last two weeks were rooted in hatred and racism: 10 murdered and three wounded in Buffalo, New York; one murdered and five wounded in Laguna Woods, California; and three wounded in Dallas, Texas. Last week, President Biden rightfully called out hatred. It is a root cause of harm to public health.
Our 2022 graduates have much to do. Our Convocation speaker has a charge for you—listen carefully. Keep the social determinants of health at the top of your list for action and let’s seek to end the loathing and fear-mongering that have harmed and killed so many.
Jonathan Samet, MD, MS
Dean, Colorado School of Public Health