While I was considering the topics that might be of interest to dermatologists and cosmetically inclined practitioners, I was struck by the fact that this year has been such a tough experience for so many people, including those who may have been terribly sick or had a family member who passed away from COVID.

An article in The Guardian examined how Norwegians prepare for a winter that lasts for months on end with little or no sunlight.1 Interestingly, with a positive attitude most Norwegians get through the winter without significant depression. It all comes down to level-setting and the embrace of the few positive aspects of winter (hot chocolate, solitude, etc.).

Clearly, the shutdowns that we have all experienced may have been wholly bad, and I am not trying to minimize these awful circumstances. Instead, I am trying to find some bright spots in this new life in order to deal with the difficulty of the year. My list includes:

  • The ability to use telemedicine to see old patients I had lost track of when they moved from Nebraska. This, and the ability to meet new patients from far corners of my state, all without having them risk their lives to travel hundreds of miles, is absolutely astonishing. I had offhandedly considered telemedicine prior to COVID, but the regulations and challenges were too onerous. Now, with new rules and a better setup, telemedicine happened for my practice within a week of the pandemic start. This was incredible and saved the jobs of my employees, while helping thousands of patients to maintain their care under trying circumstances.
  • Zoom calls with relatives have been something we do as a family every week now. My parents, June and Bernie (87 and 90 years old, respectively), were only rarely comfortable using Skype for any practical use before COVID. Now they are using it for doctors’ appointments, and, thanks to our technically gifted daughter Claire we now celebrate with our extended family each Friday night of Shabbat. This has been a constant delight each week. My understanding is that many other families are doing the same thing, something that would have never happened had we not had this pandemic.
  • The ability to wind down a little bit and relax was something I always hoped for, but never expected. During this time, however, I have actually enjoyed the ability to read papers and journal articles in a timely manner and take the time to exercise daily. I started office hours an hour later each day, allowing me to work out at a more reasonable hour of the day and enjoy getting up to exercise. This has led to a 12-pound weight loss and an overall focus on healthy eating and lifestyle. There is nothing that focuses the mind on health than the drumbeat of COVID statistics on CNN.
  • Clarity of “what matters” is something that I can’t express fully, but have felt in a significant way during this period. Life as a dermatologist is the same but quite different, but the little things don’t seem to bother me as much as they did before this. My staff is happy, though they wish they could go back to “before.” At the same time, our patients seem more grateful and appreciative of the care than ever before. We have had the best Google ratings ever during this pandemic, which I wouldn’t have ever expected at the outset.

I am sure I could rattle off many more reasons I am thankful, including my incredible wife of 31 years, Nancy, who has stood by my side, or the recent engagement of my son, Daniel, to his now-fiancée Steffi, but those are particular to me. I hope that all of you, my esteemed and deeply appreciated colleagues, can find things in your life that are positive and lock onto them fully in order to maintain your optimism.

Whatever the case, remain safe and try to keep your spirits up. It’s going to be a long winter.

1. Dreading a dark winter lockdown: Think like a Norwegian, accessed at https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/sep/26/dreading-a-dark-winter-lockdown-think-like-a-norwegian