‘It’s Going to Be Around Forever’: What We Heard This Year

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In place of our usual “What We Heard This Week” feature, and as part of our year-end wrap-ups, we’ve selected some of the best quotes our reporters heard in 2021.

“If you hear hoofbeats, you are more likely to see a horse, unless you are in an evolving COVID-19 pandemic. Then it may be a zebra.” — Benji Mathews, MD, of Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, back in January on including atypical COVID-19 manifestations in a differential diagnosis.

“We don’t knock. We don’t pull the door shut. We just barge in and ask what we want.” — Beverly Jordan, MD, a family practitioner in rural Enterprise, Alabama, describing the challenge of relatives interrupting a patient’s telehealth visit.

“If you arrived from another planet and saw two airports a mile apart, one for Black people and another for whites, you’d think this is some kind of weird apartheid…. We don’t do that for airports, but somehow that’s where we’ve ended up with hospitals.” — Vikas Saini, MD, president of the Lown Institute, discussing structural racism in healthcare.

“Get vaccinated. Good for your health. Good for your sex life.” — Bradley Anawalt, MD, of the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, in June debunking concerns that the authorized COVID-19 vaccines might harm male fertility.

It’s like “trying to soak up a lake with a napkin.” — Shawn Ryan, MD, vice chair of the legislative advocacy committee for the American Society of Addiction Medicine, describing the situation of opioid treatment providers, who say they are bleeding cash and unable to keep staff in the face of rising drug overdose deaths.

“The shame, the embarrassment, the soul-crushing debt, trying and trying — it’s just like, what more do you have left to give?” — Mahad Minhas, MD, a resident physician at the University of Michigan, describing the despair some students experience when they don’t match to a residency program.

“I think we’re going to see a turnaround.” — Anthony Fauci, MD, chief medical advisor to President Biden, in August on how he anticipated America’s Delta wave to improve, especially if vaccination rates continued to mount. Well, this aged well.

“Every guideline we write is out of date a few days after it’s published.” — Milton Packer, MD, of Baylor University Medical Center, on how new European guidelines for heart failure treatment would need to be revised with the release of the EMPEROR-Preserved study in August.

“This is an all-out abortion ban, plain and simple.” — Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Texas abortion provider Whole Woman’s Health, on the Texas law passed in September that outlaws abortions after 6 weeks.

“It’s like quicksand, as soon as you start answering more questions, you’re never caught up.” — Natalie Azar, MD, of NYU Grossman School of Medicine, speaking on how the deluge of EHR messaging and electronic communications contributes to physician burnout.

“To see a movie in the theater was quite incredible.” — Lorenzo Menicanti, MD, of IRCCS Policlinico San Donato in Milan, talking about how life in Italy was almost back to normal in October compared with about 20 months prior when Italy was the epicenter of Europe’s COVID outbreak.

“This is a terrific, important, timely effort as we move forward with spaceflight being routine; indeed, William Shatner at age 90 is heading into space this week.” — Michael Lev, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital, discussing new research about the neurologic effects of space travel.

“Originally we thought these tests could cost $5 each, we had a lot of hope for that. At CVS and Walgreens they cost more than $20 apiece. That’s crazy.” — Tinglong Dai, PhD, of Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, on the unexpectedly high prices of the highly coveted at-home rapid COVID-19 tests.

“People need to realize that it’s going to be around forever.” — Trevor Bedford, PhD, a virologist at Fred Hutch in Seattle, dispelling the notion of a post-COVID world.

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