Connecting our world at UW Medicine

Lessons We’re Taking With Us Into the New Year

As the year comes to a close, UW Medicine employees took a moment to reflect on what they’ve learned over the course of 2020.

Here is some of the newfound knowledge they hope to bring into the new year.

Beth DeLair, JD, RN, CHC, Chief Compliance Officer, Associate VP for Medical Affairs

Historically I have been more of a Type A personality who likes to plan everything and have all my ducks in a row (so to speak). This year has taught me how unpredictable life can be and how little control we actually have over it. This has forced to me to go with the flow more and just accept and work through things as they come. I hope to carry that with me in the future because I have found that I am more relaxed and happier when I do that.

Kellie Farias, MPH, RD, Clinical Dietitian

The lesson I learned from COVID-19 is that it can make a difference to be more aware of other people and what they are feeling and going through. Like many others, I was feeling overwhelmed and stressed. I started to ask those around me how they were feeling, hoping to make it known that I cared for them. By opening the conversation, to my surprise, it helped me cope with stress and I have been able to build more lasting relationships. This has made coming to work more enjoyable and has even taught me that resilience is a learned behavior.

Molly Jackson, MD, Assistant Dean for the Colleges, School of Medicine

Our UW Medicine community is longing for shared purpose and connection to each other — especially when going through challenging times. I was so touched by the stories shared by our colleagues during the earlier days of the pandemic. We need to continue to creatively prioritize space and time for reflection, conversation and human connection (with our patients and with each other) so that we can find meaning, tenderness and joy, and be sustained in our work.

Barbara Jung, MD, Professor and Chair, Department of Medicine

I have learned not to underestimate resilience. It is amazing how adaptable we are. But I have also learned that we cannot underestimate the need for some certainty. Even if it may feel like a small thing in the big scheme, comfort comes from routine and being able to predict. Loss of what we take for granted, like being able to breathe outside without a mask, has taught me to be grateful daily and focus on each moment.

Ruth Mahan, Chief Business Officer and Chief of Staff

I have learned that, if you really pay close attention, you can read body language on Zoom.

John Slattery, PhD, Vice Dean for Research and Graduate Education and Professor of Pharmacology and Medicine, School of Medicine

I’ve learned, again, that our community is resilient, infinitely adaptable and mission driven.

Sara Kim, PhD, Associate Dean for Educational Quality Improvement and Research Professor, Department of Surgery

Here’s a story of something I’ve learned this year:

I escaped my kitchen that had become my office over the past eight months and headed out to Port Angeles. At a Starbucks store in town, I waited for my latte while standing in the 6-feet signage bubble on the floor. A man occupying a bubble ahead of me turned around and started to make small talk about the smoky air from wildfires.

At one point he said, “People aren’t kind anymore.” Somewhat surprised by his remark, I replied, “Well, I’m from Seattle and I think people in Port Angeles are warm and helpful.”

My drink came out first. As I headed to the door, I said to him, “I’m going to remember today you were kind to me.” I saw crinkles forming around his eyes and floating over the edge of his facial mask. I held his gaze as long as I could.

I headed to Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park. At the park entrance, a ranger updated me on the weather. I said to the ranger, “Thank you so much for working.” Again, crinkles spread out under her wide-brim ranger hat.

The world around me may grow dimmer and darker, but I will go on searching for crinkles of kindness that shine in my midst.

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