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Welcome to This Year In Medicine 2021

Our annual recap series will feature stories from nearly every specialty of medicine—and the return of COVID-19 as a topic.

What did you expect from 2021?

In hindsight of recent developments that remind us all that globally-altering events are not confined to calendar years (Hello, Omnicron variant), we should remind ourselves the folly of anticipating—or even hoping for—expedient resolutions. After all, the public health crises we encountered in 2020 were not borne from events beginning just days, weeks, months prior; they were years and decades in development.

Even the pandemic is not the byproduct of 2020 like we so often insinuate. COVID-19? It’s in the name.

Still, we largely credit last year for our problems today, and perhaps some of that is due to that the closing events of 2020 were laden with hope: the FDA granted emergency use authorization to mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in mid-December, beginning the long-awaited process of nationally and globally distributing proven vaccines to combat the virus which had arrested public health for 12 months.

If we were to guess what you expected from 2021 by way of medical and health care advancement, it would have been more hopeful than the outcome. Yes, progress this year has brought us some more medical assurance and intellectual confidence in navigating the pandemic, and “normalcy” within regards to elective care and in-person appointments has merged somewhat finely with our newly adopted telemedicine practices. And indeed, efficacious vaccines are now available to nearly the entire eligible population in the US.

But no thing that has burdened US health care is wholly resolved from this last year—it’s only another new normal. If 2020 was marked by unprecedented changes in health care, then this year was only bound to provide more unpreceded change. Here we are at another years’ end, without substantial proof that matters of health are better or worse—only different, yet again.

Welcome back to This Year in Medicine.

Last year’s iteration of the annual HCPLive recap series hosted only 1 rule: no COVID-19 talk. We focused each of our features on health care developments and moments that deliberately looked around the elephant-sized virus in the room, answering the question, ‘What did we miss while fighting a pandemic?’

For our 2021 series, we will be addressing COVID-19—not as the sole matter of 2021 burdens, but as a critical driver of change in our health care system.

Again, our friends from sister publications Contagion® and NeurologyLive® will be contributing to our series that runs through all of December. This page will host a link to each new piece, and readers can follow along our coverage and special features on our Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages, as well as by signing up for our daily newsletter.

As we head toward 2022, let’s reflect on the points of accomplishment, challenge, and most pertinently, change that have defined health care this year.