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Home / 2020 Holiday and End of Year Wishes and Reflections

2020 Holiday and End of Year Wishes and Reflections

We are sharing below a heartfelt message sent by Director Mark Oldham to the entire program.

Duke Medical Physics 2020 leadership team gather in our classroom: (left to right) Anuj Kapadia, Mark Oldham, Olga Baranova, Joseph Lo, and Katherine Hand.

Dear Medical Physics Community, especially our Students,

As the end of the year approaches, and we look forward to the Holiday Season, it feels appropriate to pause and reflect a little on this extraordinary year, with special perspective from the Medical Physics Program.

2020 has been an incredibly challenging year for all of us.  For many it has been traumatic and tragic, and unfathomably cruel.  Even those who have been spared the worst, whose family and livelihood remain intact, have had to witness friends, colleagues, acquaintances, beloved businesses and institutions, and fellow humanity, all struggle and suffer.  Add to that the trauma from the dreadful killing of George Floyd and the subsequent widespread social outrage and protest, and the stress of a highly charged election, and 2020 will long live in our memory and in the history books as a desperately difficult year.

Perhaps we should not be too surprised – a glance through history reveals every generation faces tremendous, albeit very different challenges.  And yet it is our nature to adapt, and even thrive despite challenges.  Throughout the ages great people have discovered practical ways of being to excel in difficult times.  One of my favorites is Epictetus, a roman slave for many years, who gained freedom and condensed his experience and wisdom into an exceptionally influential philosophy.  Several of his mottos are worth remembering: “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters”, and “Faced with your own misfortune, do not forget the kindness you bestow upon others with theirs.”

With this acknowledgment, it would be remiss not to also be thankful for the good things and opportunities that have emerged this year; akin to the jewels in Shakespeare’s famous lines on the mythical toadstone “Sweet are the uses of adversity; Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous; Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.”

  • Admiration:  I, and the whole team, do feel a deep admiration for the way our students, faculty and staff (you!) have adapted with resilience and determination, and persevered through this year.  Our instructors inform me they were able to maintain their customary high standards of education, and that students performed very well overall.  I would encourage us all to take a good deal of pride in this.
  • Gratefulness: it has been very heartening to see the response of our students, instructors, advisors and the admin team, who have really engaged with the challenges and put in a massive amount of extra effort to maintain the quality of education as best we can.  We are all very grateful for that, especially the extra care to assist both students and colleagues.
  • Optimism for the future:  Duke has received national recognition for its robust and effective response to the pandemic, and deserves much credit for minimizing infections to students and staff, and institutional disruption.  In addition, there is very good news on the horizon regarding a vaccine.  Duke will be at the forefront of this effort, and we are all really looking forward to getting back to a more traditional and especially more interactive and personable year in later 2021.
  • Program achievements: My term as Director started in January this year, and despite everything I am very pleased with many substantive developments and achievements faculty and students have made this year.  A brief listing includes: a robust safety plan which helped minimize infections in our program; a new student Mentoring Program initiated by our Alumni (Thank-you Alumni !);  the first online semester and the massive effort to translate our program to hybrid and remote instruction at short notice; a program-wide Transparency Initiative; restarting of the Culture Committee; the first virtual Graduation ceremony  and Open House events; the creation of two new committees which have both already made substantive contributions (the Faculty Affairs Committee and the External Liaison Committee); a successful search and appointment of a new interim DGS (good luck Dr. Kapadia, and welcome Dr. Darnell !); and the creation of substantial new online video and media material for recruitment (make sure to check it out here!).

Finally, I hope many of you were able to attend the recent Moments to Movement hosted by the School of Medicine (SOM), and introduced by Chancellor of Duke Health Dr. Washington.  The SOM has the resources to investigate and advise its sub-programs on how to most effectively address important, complex and challenging cultural changes.  As part of the SOM, we look forward in 2021 to tapping into and benefitting from this effort. I, like many, am personally looking forward to that – it will prove to be an exciting year.

I will conclude by sending every good wish to each of you for what I hope will be a safe, relaxing, refreshing Holiday Season, including numerous toadstones, and ….. here’s to a much improved 2021!


Mark Oldham PhD, FAAPM
Director, Duke Medical Physics Graduate Program