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2019 in Review from a Peds Emerg Med Perspective

Besides TV shows like Access Hollywood and Entertainment Tonight, you know who can be relied on around the holidays for doing a solid recounting of notable events from the current year? My mother. 75 year old Trina Johns. She pauses to reflect on what made the current year unique and history-making, both about her own life and news that affected the world. From politics to personal, her list is usually right on the mark, and she’s good about saying it OUT LOUD and sharing it with my brother and me so that we might be inspired to create our own list.

So with that little tip of the hat to my momma, here’s my list:

  1. Measles & the recurrence of Vaccine Preventable Diseases
  2. Gun Violence
  3. Pseudoscience
  4. Vaping/e-cigarettes
  5. Telemedicine and the changing healthcare landscape


When I was in training to be a pediatrician 20 years ago, never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d have to worry about or see vaccine preventable diseases like measles, much less familiarize myself with the management of a widespread outbreak. It boggles my mind, really, that there has been such a groundswell of vaccine refusal based on either false data or anecdotes that fly in the face of science and evidence, but here we are. Our country has now seen hundreds of children get sick unnecessarily from measles, some with significant complications. This is not always a “no problem” infection, and the amount of time and financial resources spent on infection control is not small either.

Final thoughts for 2019: Vaccines save lives – literally. Speak with your child’s pediatrician and learn about how you can protect your child against diseases like measles.


I’m not going to make this a political point but rather a public health one. In the USA we have more gun violence by far than most other countries on the planet. It’s troubling that news of yet another school shooting or gun violence in a public place has nearly become a de rigeur event, and yet as this type of trauma continues to increase we have very little data around the details of the topic despite lots of outcry from the scientific community. I want to advocate for more federal grant funding to understand in more detail why we can’t get our gun violence problem under better control and what are effective initiatives to undertake to get to that place. Then we need to evaluate those initiatives, pick the best ones, and continue to study some more. What doesn’t seem to help?—an ongoing political battle where nothing gets accomplished.

Final thoughts for 2019: We must do better and work together to establish a non-partisan initiative to make our communities safer from gun violence.


My word, the woo that’s out there. Whether it’s wacky home remedies or oils suggested on community boards on social media or flashy marketing schemes that guarantee weight loss or anti-aging, it seems as if everywhere we turn there’s some new “quick fix” that’s touted as the NEXT BIG THING. So far, I’m batting 1.000 that none of these has successfully earned that label so we’re all actually much better served by learning a little bit more about how to evaluate these claims that we see online so we can make more informed decisions before we waste our money. But this year, the fake scientific claims really hit the mainstream. I’m hopeful that anyone reading this entry is doing so in the spirit of finding a page where there is actual evidence-based science and reporting on validated, peer reviewed research, and if we can all encourage a little more of that perhaps we can quell this damaging rising tide just a bit.

Final thoughts for 2019: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Learn how to use the ‘hairy eyeball’ and determine fact from fantasy when it comes to good health and wellness.


Why this hasn’t gone away completely after we have all had a front row seat to witnessing the horrifying lung damage inflicted by these smoking instruments is beyond me. Now that we know that e-cigs are addicting and dangerous, they just need to go away altogether. Every one of us knows of young kids who get hooked on these and how they are showing up in our schools all the time. While there are some statues starting to get in place that make it illegal to buy e-cigs for people under age 21, more measures need to be taken to eliminate these dangerous substances altogether. Too easy to get, too easy to get addicted to, and too easy to encounter significant harm.

Final thoughts for 2019: E-cigarettes are just not worth the risk they pose. Speak with your children about the real harm they can cause and open lines of communication to help them quit if they are struggling.


With this depressing list I’ve got going so far, I probably seem like I’m a real treat on New Year’s Eve, don’t I?

Well, this last one gets me kind of excited. Excited to see how new technology and practice change the landscape of healthcare. I think telemedicine is going to be one of those disruptors. I’ll admit that I was not necessarily an early adopter of this concept at first: the idea of not actually seeing a patient in person made me uncomfortable, but the more I’ve learned about the emerging technology and APPROPRIATE use of telemedicine I look forward to being a part of it and helping to shape its best practices. Sure, there will still be telemedicine organizations where antibiotics are prescribed inappropriately, but as with pseudoscience, I am a big proponent of overwhelming the bad with lots of the good, so I plan to do my part not only to participate in but also amplify good telemedicine practice when I see It. It’s growing whether we like it or not, so getting on the train early to understand its station stops is the right way to manage the trip correctly.

Final thoughts for 2019: The world of healthcare is ever-changing, and change can be good when done right.

I look forward to the New Year. I always do. It brings new beginnings, new hopes, new dreams, and new convictions. I hope that we can all reflect on this year with an open mind to learn a little and maybe adjust our views and positions on various topics in order to make some headway into a better tomorrow.

  1. What a time to be alive, right?