A Time for Our Equanimity under Duress

May 2020 – Vol. 39, No. 4

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Duane J. Taylor, MD, AAO-HNS/F President

Duane J. Taylor, MD,
AAO-HNS/F President

My hope is that you and your families are healthy and safe as you continue to manage, communicate with, and care for your patients in some way. I realize that difficult times like these can bring us closer as a specialty and make us more poised and better positioned to understand, research, educate, empathize, interact, and work through the challenges caused by this global pandemic. I am moved by the way our leadership, staff, and many of our members have risen to the challenge and call by our Academy to contribute in some way to helping all of us in our specialty get through this crisis.

The energy, resilience, focus, and inner peace required of all of us at this time reminds me of a quote, “equanimity under duress,” associated with the much-admired surgeon, leader, and educator, LaSall D. Leffall, Jr., MD. Dr. Leffall passed away in May 2019 and had served in many capacities, including the chair of the President’s Cancer Panel, president of the American Cancer Society, and president of the American College of Surgeons. While he was professor and chair of the Department of Surgery at Howard University Hospital, he trained over 4,500 students and residents who, after spending time with him, understood the meaning of “equanimity under duress.” He gleaned this phrase from his appreciation of the essay by Sir William Osler, “Aequanimitas,” delivered to a group of newly “minted” medical students at their graduation. This phrase, which Dr. Leffall also bestowed upon one his many publications, alludes to the idea that we must be prepared to draw upon a sense of calmness and tranquility in the face of adversity and challenges that, in the moment, may seem beyond our control. Although I never worked alongside him or trained under him, my interactions with him let me know that he lived by this credo. Dr. Leffall gave a sense of reassurance and hope to his patients and great knowledge, inspiration, and direction to those he trained.

Unknowingly, our experiences and training in our specialty have equipped us to manage the urgent, emergent, and time-sensitive decisions we are faced with daily, and we will emerge from the turmoil of this previously unchartered territory that surrounds us. In spite of any personal, physical, emotional, and financial losses we may suffer, we will come through this with a knowledge, growth, and understanding that will prepare us for a different way of doing things in the future. We will come through this with a greater sense of appreciation for those who we love, work with, depend on, and who depend on us. Although there are times we must be separated by physical distances, we are all bound by a tenacity, courage, and determination to come out of this stronger and together. It is important that segments of our new residents, graduating residents, and young physicians understand that our specialty will be ready to navigate the post-COVID-19 era as a profession.

Many of the positive things that we have gained from this experience are yet to be appreciated but might include that the resilience of the human spirit is without bounds when pushed to its limits. You are all to be commended for the leadership, hope, courage, and strength you demonstrate and share with your colleagues during this difficult time and hopefully pass on to your family, friends, and community.

This is a time when hopefully our mindfulness and wellness will no longer be just stored in our reserves for a crisis but will become an essential part of how we function daily as we still face the unknown. Whether it is time for introspection and meditation, time spent with our family, time for patient care, or time for understanding and appreciation, realize we should take no time for granted. Remember that together we can get through this time, finding solace in the eye of the storm, peace and tranquility in the midst of the storm, and inner calm as we exercise our “equanimity under duress.” Stay safe and healthy. We Are One.