Chris Martinez Mid-Year Letter

June 23, 2020

Resilience is a learned skill rather than a gift.  It is time we all enhance our education.

2020 has been unpredictable to say the least.  It has brought challenges that many of us would have once considered unthinkable.  Since joining AAFA just 4 months ago, our healthcare system has been utilized in a manner that it has seldom, if ever, been used before.  Our response to COVID-19, as a nation and a world has been somewhat hard to follow and often inconsistent.  In parallel to this, we have witnessed a shift in the racial justice movement that has brought needed but emotional action and our country is still finding itself as well as a path forward. Coupled with swings in the economy, drastic changes for large and small businesses, inability to see friends and loved ones and the ever-present fear of catching coronavirus ourselves, these stressors are challenging for the most steadfast among us. AAFA-STL has tried to find ways to be nimble and respond.

Our COVID-19 response has included working with our national office as we share information and interact with and learn from all major healthcare authorities. We have procured masks that we are distributing to our clients to help mitigate risk. We are staying on top the rate of infection and doing our part to limit exposure through remote solutions. We are also currently in discussion with multiple partners, including the State of Missouri, to consider, plan and launch a back to school COVID-19 readiness, Asthma Kit to be made available to every public school in the state, while still taking care of all our regional schools. 

Our attention, while firmly on the present, also permits an eye to the future.  We recognize that viral infection may be something that we will have to deal with beyond 2020 and as I have stated before could be even more taxing on those with asthma and allergies than COVID-19 has been.  We are having discussions with schools, medical and government organizations and like-minded individuals to help us better understand what being more prepared for next time means. Surely it includes a faster response for care, better awareness of medication availability, and an even stronger role in prevention. We are committed to being ready.

Black lives matter to AAFA. We value each and every life we serve. That is why we do what we do. For a long time we have been called upon to serve many individuals in the Black and Latino communities and all those fighting poverty and/or disease in our region. We stand with those who work to not only improve lives but to build a more just healthcare system, educational system and society for all. We are advocating for appropriate Medicaid coverage and drug costs.  We are challenging funders to consider equity and collective impact. We are moving to the center of a conversation that is not just about helping others but empowering them to have healthier environments, access and more positive outcomes. Most importantly though, we will be listening and learning from those currently most affected, as we try to understand and determine our best role as part of a larger solution.

Meanwhile, we continue to provide the community with medication, equipment and education as we always have. Our upcoming Online Panel discussion on Food Allergies is just one example.  Please join us.

This work requires resilience. Seeing others with creative solutions has helped. A suit built out of plastic so grandma can be safely hugged on her birthday, neighborhood children playing their instruments outside the windows of a children’s hospital where visitors are extremely limited and countless ways to stay fit or otherwise engaged during isolation on social media have reminded us how innovative we can be. Healthcare employees risking everything to save lives reminds us how much selflessness we are capable of. Communities coming together to name injustices and peacefully call for meaningful change helps us see our potential. And restaurants swiftly altering their entire business model to become curbside magicians retells us that business and social good are not only able to coexist but can be unified in what is right for all. 

This work requires resilience.  But resilience is not a prerequisite. We can develop it. All of us must witness other great examples of resilience and learn from them. We must take care of ourselves, so we can help others. And when we do help others or witness progress we must celebrate wins.  Most importantly though, we must adopt the right attitude.  That progress, success, victory will be achieved through hard work, sacrifice, struggle and loss, but it WILL be achieved.  Maya Angelou wrote, “I can be changed by what happens to me, but I will not be reduced by it.” This is resilience.  This is our charge.  So let’s not be reduced but rather let us get stronger, together because of this adversity. Let us become greater through what we have experienced and are experiencing. We do this work because it matters and because we believe in our own resilience. And we do this work because everyone deserves to breathe.

With both hope and a well-written plan,

Chris