1968 and 2020 - Saved in the End

I am a huge fan of NASA, especially the Apollo missions of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Innovation and a future-thinking mindset were at an all-time high. The focus on achieving a moon landing, something thought impossible years before, brought the country together during a tumultuous time.

The year 1968, 9 years before I was born, was one of the most traumatic in modern history – little did we know what the last year was going to look like. The Viet Cong was showing the United States that this was going to be a brutal war.

College students were killed during the Civil Rights protests in South Carolina. Martin Luther King Jr and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. Richard Nixon was elected president on the back of a plan to end a war that would rage for 7 more years.

To those living through those times, it felt like the world we knew was coming to an end. For so many reasons the course of history was changed in 1968.

When 3 astronauts launch from southern Florida in Apollo 8 to round the moon, the public was either indifferent or fearful of the next catastrophe to hit our nation.

On Christmas morning, the crew signaled successful performance of all the mission objectives and headed home. Two days later, the world rejoiced when the three astronauts splashed down in the pacific.

Among the millions of telegrams and well wishes, one American wrote:

"Thank you, Apollo 8. You saved 1968."

Like 1968, 2020 will change the course of history for future generations.

The pain, sorrow, political upheaval, and loss felt during 2020 was unlike any year in our history.

Unbelievable amount of death and illness, killer hornets, fires, hurricanes, distance, riots, blackouts, historic unemployment, lockdowns, Zoom school, dramatic social change, nasal swab assaults, and toilet paper rations tested the resolve as humans.

From the darkness that was 2020 came great light in the form of hero frontline healthcare workers, individuals young and old reaching out to help their neighbors, and acts of kindness we thought were left for another time and place.

December brought us our greatest light, two highly effective vaccines that were ready to be put into arms within hours of being approved. Sometimes all it takes is one small gesture, one pinprick to the heart, to change the wind's direction.

Our wind change came from a healthcare technology at the cutting edge of innovation, built with the same mindset that took us to the moon.

Has the distribution been a mess? YES

Did this light at the end of a very dark year give us a glimmer of hope? YES

For that, I say….

Thank you to all who were involved at Pfizer and Moderna. You saved 2020

Etan Walls is Principal of Strong Walls Consulting and author of the upcoming book The Mega Factory of Healthcare. Strong Walls Consulting provides operational, strategic, and tactical assistance to healthcare organizations, large and small. Previously, Mr. Walls was the COO of the largest independent outpatient Pediatric group in the United States. He has mentored many startup Healthcare IT organizations with his brand of innovative, forward-thinking leadership. All inquiries should go to etanwalls@gmail.com