Amid fear and sadness, dedication to serve the public’s health is our hopeful path forward

Amid fear and sadness, dedication to serve the public’s health is our hopeful path forward

By Scott J. Becker, CEO

A deeply challenging 2020 reinforced the importance of public health as a cornerstone of individual, community, social, economic and political well-being. The COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests placed an unforgiving and long-overdue spotlight on the impacts of systemic racism and social inequities pervasive in the US. And already in 2021, a year we approached with hope and optimism, we witnessed a violent and repulsive attack on federal leaders, staff and institutions at the US Capitol fueled by the vocal few who wish to disrupt democracy for all.

The Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) represents governmental laboratories and their staff – individuals who embody the best of our national character and represent the breadth of our diversity. I want to be very clear: APHL unequivocally denounces the terrorism we witnessed last week and reaffirms our commitment to diversity and inclusion. We believe in public health equity and that Black Lives Matter. These are inherent to our organizational values and are vital to fulfilling our mission to strengthen laboratory systems serving the public’s health in the US​​ and globally. We empathize with the fear and sadness felt among our members and staff, and our shared values and commitment to unity, justice, peace and the preservation of democracy compel us to move forward.

Looking ahead to the coming week, we will celebrate the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a principled leader who not only inspired a nation to dream of justice and equity for all but also kept his focus on a better future no matter the setbacks. This week we also look toward a peaceful transfer of power resulting from free and fair elections, representing the will of our nation’s citizens. The inauguration of the next administration will occur undeterred despite threats of mayhem and misinformation.

As Dr. King said, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” Together we have experienced a deadly pandemic, witnessed racial injustice and faced insurrectionists threatening our democracy. It is my fervent hope that our community remains committed to upholding the democratic ideals that drive scientific discovery and public health practice, as we heal together. Together we will move forward.

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