The Star Tribune editorial, "Health care leaders must step up now," (Nov. 30) misses the mark. We have all faced challenges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but health care workers and leaders have tirelessly staffed the front line for nearly two years. Worldwide, researchers and health care professionals have risen to the challenge through every surge and have continued to transform how we care for patients, protect communities and conduct research.
It is essential to recognize those contributions. They are significant.
We should start by recognizing and thanking the tireless commitment of health care workers who continually do whatever it takes every day to make sure people have access to excellent care — sometimes at significant risk to their own health. Like so many, Mayo's health care workers remain vigilant because of the ongoing nature of the pandemic, and we owe them a debt of gratitude.
Mayo Clinic strives to ensure the safety of its heroic workers and supports COVID-19 vaccinations for them because protecting our patients and staff is the right thing to do.
We also must recognize groundbreaking medical researchers who quickly mobilized to advance innovative research at great speed during the pandemic. Mayo Clinic's COVID-19 Research Task Force created 24 separate workstreams to understand SARS-CoV-2 (the virus) and manage COVID-19 (the disease). The task force utilized state-of-the-art computing tools, such as artificial intelligence, to accelerate research, clinical trial enrollment and population research studies. They also created collaborative treatment teams of physicians and other experts to manage complex care of patients with COVID-19. This resulted in significantly better patient outcomes and saved many lives.
Laboratory colleagues similarly worked at the forefront of COVID-19 to expand testing with great speed and accuracy. Mayo Clinic met the demands from across Minnesota and the nation — particularly when many were scrambling to create access and capacity for testing. We led some of the first COVID-19 drive-through testing in the state and worked closely with government officials to expand access through community testing locations.
Mayo Clinic continues in a nonpartisan way to partner with federal, state and local leaders to provide the best available scientific evidence, data and predictive tools to assist in their decisionmaking. We also work directly with community organizations across all of Mayo's geographic locations to empower patients, reduce disparities, and support our communities in keeping us all safer and healthier.
All health care organizations have faced significant challenges during the pandemic. At Mayo Clinic, we are proud to say we have monitored and cared for 100,300 COVID-19 patients through our front-line and virtual COVID-19 care teams, tested almost 1.8 million patients, administered over half a million vaccines, and provided nearly 18,600 monoclonal antibody infusions — including nearly 15,000 in rural communities throughout the Midwest.
The pressure to serve so many patients while facing staffing and supply chain shortages has been daunting. Still, we stepped up, continue to innovate and show up each day as part of our unwavering commitment to serving patient needs first.
Our work is far from done. The pandemic laid bare existing gaps in our national ability to coordinate and prioritize clinical studies and trials, and we are focused on building on these lessons learned. Mayo Clinic is leading the Advancing Clinical Trials at the Point-of-Care coalition, a new collaboration that enables our clinicians to access the evidence they need to deliver the best care to our patients.
Because of the work of health care leaders, we have robust treatment capabilities in our region and evidence-based tools to fight the pandemic.
Asking health care to step up now when we consistently have done so throughout the pandemic is incredibly demotivating to those who have given so much. We all want to see an end to the pandemic, and we will continue to do our part.
However, we must remember that we no longer are in the early months of the pandemic with few resources to bring the pandemic to an end. It is no longer just the health care workers who must do their part. Everyone is on the front lines now and can help bring this to an end if we all step up in three key ways.
We must mask and practice social distancing in appropriate settings. If we have symptoms, we must be considerate about the risk and get appropriate testing. Crucially, we all need to get vaccinated, including boosters, if eligible. We still have more than a quarter of eligible people who are unvaccinated in Minnesota.
It will take more than health care workers efforts to close that gap.
Gianrico Farrugia is a physician and Mayo Clinic president and CEO.