It is encouraging to see leaders from several sectors announcing publicly that they are conducting a review of their response to the Covid-19 health crisis in the United States. In fairness to these leaders, it is an unprecedented national event that has affected where we live, work, play, pray, and socialize.

For example, leaders from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have initiated a self-examination of this federal agency’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Heads of the American Federation of Teachers are asking for some type of forgiveness, realizing that the dramatic step of shuttering our schools for such a long period may have been a mistake. Worksites are facing such dramatic change “in the way we work” since the introduction of the personal computer, i.e., do we work from the worksite, at home, or can we work from away?

Hospitals and our armed forces are struggling to staff positions that protect our health and welfare, given the “letting go” of a significant number of employees who chose not to be vaccinated. Public confidence in the noble profession of medicine and many of its disciplines have plummeted, given the abject refusal to listen to colleagues who differed on the origin of the coronavirus and the subsequent prevention, protection, mitigation, and treatment actions needed.

READ MORE — Stephen F. Gambescia: Higher education needs to get it right in managing payments to athletes

It remains to be seen how serious the soul-searching top federal leaders — from the White House to the bureaucracy agencies — will be. After all, it’s been revealed they worked in concert with print, broadcast, and social media companies to circulate dishonest information and shoddy data. Blind obedience — combined with the threat of censorship — was the demand placed upon institutions and individuals for non-compliance with the government, ostensibly “the single source of truth.”

Since we now know scientific norms were discarded, critiques by physicians with alternative opinions were debased, and innocent citizens were abused vocationally, spiritually, and financially, it will take more than an “official” white paper to make things right. Confidence in both the public health and healthcare systems has been damaged. It will take an up-close and specific reflection from each sector to regain the trust of the people.

What seems to be a common etiologic factor from all sectors is that our leaders became drunk on the politics of the pandemic rather than relying on basic principles from common sense, keeping to the mission of their organization, and being transparent to the epistemic challenges of the coronavirus outbreak vis-à-vis what we know, what we suspect, and what we don’t know.

To be helpful, we suggest a sobering and proven process for owning the issue, confronting the aggrieved, and moving forward with integrity. It’s an adapted suggestion as applied to the Covid-19 crisis. The 12-step program approach and framework is a model of accepted wisdom. These steps of recognizing a “higher power,” accepting personal responsibility, feeling remorse, and initiating apologies to those who have been harmed is a useful strategy to regain public trust while charting a more responsible path intorotecting the public’s health in the future.

Here is a eight-step adaptation to consider.

  1. Admit you made yourself feel powerless to act as an objective professional by kneeling to the orthodoxy of a powerful bureaucracy.
  2. Commit to the primacy of the principles of science.
  3. Conduct a rigid, critical, and fearless moral inventory of your recent professional behavior. 
  4. Admit to a higher power, yourself, and another human being the exact nature of your wrongs.
  5. Develop a list of all categories of people, as well as individuals, you’ve harmed, to make amends.
  6. Approach the individuals and groups of people on your “make amends” list and apologize personally.
  7. Recognize that, as a professional, you have an obligation to a power greater than yourself.
  8. Encourage your professional peers to make the same commitments and take the same actions as you did.

Over the decades, the Alcoholics Anonymous methodology has been used by many groups to help their members admit their errors and move on with their lives in a successful manner. Perhaps this tried-and-true approach can assist America’s public health, healthcare, and education leadership in digging themselves out of the negative reputational ditch they’ve dug for themselves.

Stew Bolno is an Organizational Effectiveness Consultant in Philadelphia.

Stephen F. Gambescia is a professor of health services administration at Drexel University.

7 thoughts on “Bolno + Gambescia: Eight steps to Covid contrition”

  1. Gambescia and Bolno:
    Congratulations on starting to realize there is a massive problem. Guess what? It is worse than you realize and the time for being polite or nice to these tyrants and scum has come and gone. On every issue, simply follow the money.
    Former Popular Mechanics editor and expert conspiracy-theory debunker James Meigs noted in City Journal this was no conspiracy theory: Released documents both in US court (Missouri v. Biden filed on May 5, 2022) and in recent US House hearings, show (Trump and Biden administrations) White House and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials worked hand in hand with tech companies and social-media platforms to censor views and reports about COVID – that turned out to have been true. Issues that should have been debated. Tech companies made trillions in profits.
    In 2019, before the outbreak of the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci had a net worth of $7.5 million. By the end of 2021, Fauci’s net worth nearly doubled as he skyrocketed to $12.6 million despite receiving a federal government salary of roughly $450,000. That math doesn’t add up – so where did Fauci get the extra money? OpenTheBooks, a transparency organization, reveals the money is bigger than you think. After filing a lawsuit using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), OpenTheBooks discovered 56,000 financial transactions that totaled over $325 million flowing to the country’s top COVID experts.
    A senior-level CIA officer-turned-whistleblower alleged to Congress earlier this month that the intelligence agency offered to pay off six analysts in order to bury their findings that COVID-19 most likely leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China.
    The analysts, who found SARS-CoV-2 likely originated in a Wuhan lab, were allegedly asked to report that the virus jumped from animals to humans, according to Wenstrup and Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mike Turner (R-Ohio). There will be no apologies. They are stuffing the mail-in ballots. Your efforts to find peace and get along are misguided.

  2. “Condescending?” There will be howls of denial that anything was amiss with the COVID response. At the inception of the pandemic the responses coming from the medical community, goaded on by government, did not pass the smell test (like fish 3 days old). Big Pharma created beneficial effects from a non-vaccine out of whole cloth, 1st, it will prevent COVID in the inoculated, Whoops, 2nd, it will prevent the spread of COVID, Whoops, 3rd, it has no harmful side effects, Whoops. The concept of isolating the well and exposing the sick flew against a century of public health responses yet a huge number of people embraced what was going on with religious fever, and acted as if this was the Mediaeval Black Plague. In addition to the community of actors, all those who became vigilantes or supported the social disruption practices undertaken, should apologize to each other and the generation of children they irreparably damaged.

  3. Doctors and nurses save lives every day. They make the best decisions they can dire pressure. I’m grateful to them. I don’t expect them to get down on their knees and beg forgiveness for decisions made in an unprecedented situation. This whole thing is doctor shaming and yes, I find it laughable. I literally laughed at the suggestions at the end.

  4. “This whole thing is doctor shaming…” that’s your understanding of the article?!? The crux of the authors’ argument: “It remains to be seen how serious the soul-searching top federal leaders — from the White House to the bureaucracy agencies — will be. After all, it’s been revealed they worked in concert with print, broadcast, and social media companies to circulate dishonest information and shoddy data.”
    To somehow decide this article was about doctor shaming, might be a willful misinterpretation. Was your laughter brought on by a case of being hysterical? Do you need a lobotomy? (What I did there was refer to past conditions some doctors diagnosed for women as appropriate – and they were not.) It is a mistake to define and defend, or attack, groups based on a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea. Lately as a culture we seem to be fixated on immutable characteristics like skin color (unchanging over time or unable to be changed) and trying to pretend we are gods and can define reality anyway we decide. Reality check: There are good doctors and bad doctors. There are good veterans and bad veterans… priests, teachers, etc. Let’s try and refocus on the actual scope and effects of people’s actions and behavior instead of lumping them into special groups. A bunch of our leaders in various industries were tyrants, big businesses made trillions of dollars, we allowed school boards with zero medical evidence to unnecessarily slap masks on children and keep the poorest out of school for as long as possible, and our leaders censored actual scientific debate. Now we need to make these people accountable for their behavior.

  5. Forget about doctor shaming – what about the nursing shaming? What about the nurses that lived through the first year of Covid? The ones that were heroic and dealt with Covid and those dying patients every day? Many nurses decided they didn’t want to take an experimental mRNA shot. They already had been dealing with Covid, they knew what they were dealing with and had seen everything from the front lines, and they were tossed away like trash. Because they stood up to tyrants.

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