Looking to 2021

By The SHSMD Team posted 01-05-2021 10:58 AM


By Jennifer Wilkerson
Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer
Sheppard Pratt Health System

As we bring 2020 to a close, there is so much to remember when we consider the devastation that COVID-19 brought to the world. The unprecedented and unrelenting pressures it has put on health care and other essential workers. The families and friends mourning losses. The way it highlighted existing health and socioeconomic disparities. We remember these and other sources of pain. But we also have ample reasons to remember with a spirit of thankfulness.

Reasons for Thankfulness

We saw how scientists all over the globe pooled information and collaborated on developing vaccines and treatments. We saw how these efforts produced vaccines that work, far faster than many experts thought possible. The images of the trucks leaving the warehouse with the first vaccines to be distributed in the United States still carry power to thrill.

We have so much more work ahead of us to fight COVID-19, but now, with effective vaccines, the end is in sight. This, even more than the beginning of another year, is a reason to stop for reflection and even to celebrate what we’ve achieved.

SHSMD members can be proud of what they’ve accomplished for their organizations, of how they’ve informed, protected and cared for their communities. Some of the consistent themes we’ve seen include:

  • Competitors working together for consistent COVID-19 messaging and sharing capacity.
  • Strategists helping lead COVID-19 command centers and coordinating the plans for testing and treatment.
  • Marketers shouldering vastly increased responsibilities for internal and external communications, ensuring that stakeholders had the information they needed at their fingertips and finding the right things to say to help staff stay resilient.
  • A spirit of collaboration, newfound agility, and in our communities, appreciation of health care workers. 

Health Challenges to Face

We know that there are challenges and uncertainties ahead.

  • How will the economy recover with so many small businesses lost and so many people unemployed?
  • How many will contract COVID-19 before widespread vaccination?
  • How can people with “long haul” COVID-19 best be treated?
  • Might there be another pandemic in our future?
  • How can misinformation about vaccinations be overcome?
  • COVID-19 mortality rates are more than twice the rate among Black, Latinx and Native American populations than they are for white Americans and 10 percent higher among Asian Americans. How can hospitals and health systems think and act differently to reduce health inequities and address social determinants of health? 
These are tough questions. If they were easy, we’d already have the answer. But I’m choosing not to be afraid of this uncertainty and difficulty.


I’ve seen what SHSMD members have done and are still doing each and every day. They are leading, serving, creating, pivoting, inventing, partnering, learning and succeeding. They’re succeeding together.

Let’s take a moment to reflect on the SHSMD membership achievements in 2020.

Because of this, rather than its usual Leadership Excellence and Rising Star designations given to individuals, SHSMD is honoring all its members for outstanding achievement and overwhelming potential. 2021 is the Year of the SHSMD Member.

In 2021, SHSMD will offer more opportunities for members to gather in online forums to solve problems and plan strategies together, resulting in co-created toolkits and “how to” resources, such as the new Vaccine Communications Toolkit. We will convene virtual conferences featuring expert speakers on critical topics and new networking options. Our Fall SHSMD Connections conference starting September 19, 2021 in San Antonio, TX will provide a new and long-awaited opportunity for an in-person and virtual gathering. This year, stay close to your peers in SHSMD and we’ll continue to connect to forge new pathways together.

Keep the conversation going; visit MySHSMD now.