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St. Luke's chief medical officers look to the future with optimism

While reflecting on the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has presented over the last year, St. Luke's health leaders say there are reasons to move forward with hope.

BOISE, Idaho — A trio of chief medical officers at St. Luke’s Health System took time Friday to reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic after one year of combatting the virus.

“We had patients who were afraid, we had staff who was afraid, and a year later we're in a position of hope and that’s remarkable," Dr. Frank Johnson said. "What a journey, I’m so grateful that we’ve been able to get to this point."

As many look back on the last 12 months, Dr. Michaela Schulte is also looking forward. To her, the future is filled with more opportunities to learn about the virus and ourselves. 

“Today in particular I think I feel very hopeful that we are really on a good trajectory,” Shulte said. “It’s important for us to also understand what is there to learn and realize, to me, that is a part of the hope that we continue some growth journeys and we’ve found some gaps in things that we can continue to optimize.”

The future is filled with unknowns as people wonder when things will return to normal. No one can say for sure, but there is reason to be optimistic about the not too distant future.

“We heard on the national level yesterday that there is a good sense that maybe in the mid-summer we will be moving towards that, where we can gradually change," Shulte said. "I think much will depend on the virus and the variants will evolve. How effective the uptake of the vaccine will be as well as obviously the supply. I really just strongly encourage people to take that view that things will, every week as we go through this, we will have more clarity."

This past year has shown the importance of neighbors taking care of each other, according to Johnson. His hope for the future is based on communities reconnecting in-person, something that once seemed so far off.

“Over the next couple of months, we will be able to come out of our bubbles," he said. "We might have to re-bubble again for short periods of time depending on how things go, we don’t know. But, as we emerge, I’m just, again, optimistic that we can take that opportunity to reframe the discussion with our communities."

RELATED: Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee discusses Group 3 vaccine eligibility

The future holds plenty of difficult discussions as well. For Dr. Joshua Kern, it has been very difficult to see so many conspiracy theories about the virus and medical community over the last year while frontline healthcare workers have battled the virus. 

He believes hope for the future hinges on our ability as a community to recognize the truth and move away from dialogue that has made fighting the pandemic more difficult.

“We have to get back to the point where we say, no, really, this vaccine has been given to tens of millions of people in the United States," Kern said. "It’s showing to be very safe, it doesn’t cause, insert conspiracy there, and people say okay, great, let’s get this vaccine because it is safe and prevent this virus. Which, has killed more than one in a thousand people in the United States."

Nobody can say for sure what will happen over the next year, but this trio is optimistic, that better days are getting closer.

“The trajectory right now is really pointing in that direction of us getting back to those in-person gatherings and gradually being able to reduce the things that we have to wear and the cautions we have to take,” Shulte said.

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