A Letter from the Dean | Fall 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is an inescapable defining issue that is profoundly affecting each of us. As we learn more about this disease, and cope with its economic impact and how our day-to-day lives have been altered, I find myself pondering whether we are on a path to adapt or to acclimate.

Acclimation involves an ability to adjust to new conditions and to quickly return to baseline when conditions are restored. Adaptation involves adjustments that promote survival when conditions change.

In the inspiring stories shared in this issue, I see evidence of both acclimation and adaptation in our response to the pandemic. I am proud of our alumni who are involved in leading the response—in New Hampshire (Benjamin Chan, MD, MPH ’13’) and at Dartmouth (Lisa Adams MED ’90). In a Q and A, Dr. Chan, an infectious disease specialist, talks about his work in guiding the state through the pandemic. There is also a story about an alumnus who is using his expertise in biotechnology to develop treatments for severe COVID-19 patients, and a student who sought involvement in telemedicine to complete her clinical rotation. Finally, I call your attention to a feature about how our faculty are adapting the curriculum, often on the fly, in response to physical distancing requirements.

I continue to be moved by the efforts of our faculty, staff, students, and alumni under very stressful conditions. The stress caused by the pandemic is very real, and I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to remind everyone to practice good mental health care and to access support services if they feel the need to do so.

We have certainly acclimated to these new circumstances with changes to both our research and education programs. Yet I also see how we are adapting as an organization because some of the changes we’ve made will remain once the pandemic ends.

I want to thank everyone for their continued adherence to public health guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.

Duane Compton, PhD
Dean, Geisel School of Medicine