Upon “James D. Bernstein Excellence in Public Health to Children” Award, by Shannon Brown Dowler, MD

Early COVID craze, the unknown, in a daze,

The future uncertain daily changing our ways.

Testing was scarce; fear, a fountain flowing–

Talking heads babbled the ignorant all knowing.

And you saw your patients– You opened your doors —

You turned on the lights despite dwindling stores

Of PPE to protect your team,

You front line heroes who never lost steam.

All systems straining, all your doctorly training,

Flipped like a switch– suddenly technology was reigning.

Otoscopes and hugs, replaced overnight,

By Virtually caring you cared wrong or right.

Did you see me? Because I saw you.

We all gave so much so we could all make it through.

I’m so glad You are You.

Early morning…late night…outbreak testing site:

the foreman, disgusted, spoiling for a fight.

Media hovering, zooming in tight,

Already the world can’t agree what is right.

Workers file past, dark eyes, averted, downcast–

They want to be tested but don’t want harassed.

The plant foreman’s fury is their judge and their jury–

(when she looks away, they’ll come through at last).

Virtual work frenzy, new policies flying,

Bulletins burst forth, telehealth solidifying.

Flood water still rising–no hope soon to crest–

Race riots flourish, civil unrest.

Feverishly working, unspeakably stressed.

Did you see me? Because I saw you.

Scared, overwhelmed, unsure what to do.

It’s ok.  You be You.

Incomplete data, that, once all accounted

shows disparities rising as case counts mounted.

Your outcome was different based on your race.

Ethnicity mattered, falling to last place…

Fewer tests for neighbors living in lower stations…

More illness and death for marginalized populations.

Health departments toiling, the virus was boiling,

While in the political machine a fight begins spoiling.

Doubting decisions…power brokers…unabashed…

A nation divided, at odds, they unmasked.

Do you hear me? Because I hear you.

If we all listen hard, we can learn what is true.

But You be You.

Burnout brimming–compassion fatigue–

But the vaccine restores us, it’s the hope we all need.

More demand than supply, not enough vaccines in hand,

You stood, ever ready, and thoughtfully planned.

“How can we help? What can we do?”

You guardian warriors it was You being You.

The house of medicine bent, worn out and spent–

while the storm of a virus unleashes it’s torment–

now breathless from fact-fighting fake news and lies…

Misinformation, misguided missiles, manic, it flies.

Do you see me? Because I see you.

Working together there’s no end to what we can do.

It’s ok to rest. You take care of You.

We are tired of begging, of wheedling, and cajoling.

We are tired of the counter relentlessly rolling

and clocking the deaths and the stressed and depressed–

friends and families fractured by worldly unrest.

Ever hopeful, we rise, we still reach for the prize

of overcoming hatred, division, and lies.

Gently commanding change worth demanding,

unwavering equity is our shared understanding.

We are tired but mighty, we hopers and healers,

We purveyors of health, empaths and feelers.

From your perch in a clinic, a hospital, the state–

You are changing the world and that’s never too late.

Do you see me? Because I see you.

Together, together, we will do what we must do.

But, hey friends, You be You.