The past eight months have been a time of unexpected and often stressful changes as we navigate life with Covid-19 amidst a period of social and political unrest in this country. As the year comes to a close, we’ve chosen to focus this newsletter on the changes we’ve experienced over the past semester—what we’ll keep, what we’ve learned and how this has been a powerful catalyst for our work. At this stage in the pandemic, the changes that felt temporary have become engrained into our daily lives—it’s natural to grab a mask before leaving the house, standing six feet away is the norm and it’s assumed that when we set up a meeting, it will be by Zoom. While most of us can’t wait to resume more normalcy in our social and personal lives, some of these necessary changes have turned out to have unexpected benefits. Personally, I get to see my kids a lot more than I did before the spring and we are all still enjoying time together. Professionally, virtual teaching prompted many of us to redesign our courses, including myself. While I am very much looking forward to teaching in-person again next fall, the redesign gave me a chance to really prioritize communication and teamwork in the class, deepening the opportunities for interactive learning—and the students all really rose to the challenge. As the pandemic and year of protests have laid bare the depth of the underlying disparities that impact health, including reproductive health, many of us at the Center have changed the focus of our research. For some, we are looking at the immediate impact of Covid-related restrictions and stigma on health care access. For others, it has prompted us to seek greater insight into the interaction of racism, poverty and health care access. While the Center’s mission to understand and impact reproductive health through high quality research and education hasn’t changed, the events of 2020 have brought into focus the need for continuous learning about the myriad ways in which structural factors impact reproductive health.
As we close this year out, many of us are really optimistic about the new changes that 2021 will bring. We are on the brink of having more than one effective vaccine available and we will have a new administration that values and will deliver on the science and technology necessary to address the pandemic. The change in administration will also bring a change in representation, with historic diversity in cabinet and leadership positions, and a changed vision of reproductive health, reversing some of the executive orders that restricted basic reproductive health care around the world. At the end of this very challenging year, I look forward to embracing the lessons of 2020, including the changes we want to keep and the very promising changes on the horizon.