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In symposium keynote address, Dr. Amy Acton calls on physicians to ‘hold the space’

April 24, 2024
Dr. Amy Acton speaks at OOS

“Not all heroes wear capes,” is one of the expressions that went viral during the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to recognize front line providers who worked tirelessly to care for the tidal wave of patients stricken by the disease. The phrase also became closely associated with former Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton, M.D., who became the face of the state’s efforts to fight COVID. Some of those heroes were on hand during Acton’s keynote address at the Ohio Osteopathic Symposium recently held in Columbus. The symposium is a continuing medical education event for osteopathic physicians, co-sponsored by the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine Society of Alumni & Friends and the Ohio Osteopathic Association.

Attendees gave Acton a standing ovation following her address, which detailed her experiences during the pandemic and her continued push for the government to do a postmortem to better prepare for the next pandemic.

“You can’t legislate your way through a problem that complicated, but you can give people the tools…and let them run with it,” said Acton about her role during the pandemic. “Every leader in whatever position…everyone had to solve problems in ways they never had before. My job was to hold the space and get information to you.”

Acton, who called her service “the honor of a lifetime,” said every legislator she worked with was passionate about something related to public health, and she witnessed more love than hate during that tumultuous time. However, Acton is concerned because the country has yet to do a deep dive identifying best practices in how the pandemic was handled. She said the country is at risk if a new pandemic playbook is not developed.

Dr. Amy Acton meets with OOS attendees

“We have not made meaning out of what we have endured,” Acton said, adding that the country is still recovering, but “we have to co-create the world we want to live in…the problems we face are going to take all of us. They aren’t going to be solved in bubbles.”

Acton said during the pandemic, the walls between health systems, academia, nonprofits and public health fell away as everyone came to the table to create innovative solutions on the spot. Now, she said, “We’re being pitted against one another,” but “we have work to do.”

Acton is calling for a structure that would bring together public and private entities to solve population health problems which are entwined in most aspects of life, from transportation to commerce.

She asked the providers at the symposium to “hold the space” with patients, remember that physician’s voices are still some of the most trusted, build relationships with patients and meet them where they are. Acton told attendees that everyone who is willing to build healing relationships is needed on the front line.

“We are all part of this fabric we’re weaving,” she said.