The New England Journal of Medicine is the most widely read, cited and influential medical publication in the world. More than 600,000 physicians, educators, researchers and members of the global medical community read NEJM each week.
It receives 16,000 research submissions for publication each year and just 5% are published. It is cited in scientific literature more often than any other medical journal, a strong measure of credibility. The NEJM has been published for over 200 years and it just did something for the first time ever: Publish an editorial condemning a sitting president.
Titled "Dying in a Leadership Vacuum," the editors at NEJM urge Americans to vote the current administration out of office for its mishandling of the pandemic. And it is not alone in taking this unprecedented step. The Lancet, another prestigious and respected medical journal, for the first time is opining about the election. In an article, "Reviving the US CDC," it stated, "Americans must put a president in the White House come January 2021, who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics."
Scientific American, a scientific journal that has been in print for 175 years is endorsing a presidential candidate for the first time in its history: Joe Biden.
The American public should pay close attention to this. These journals have come forward with recommendations based on this administration’s mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic, which has already killed more Americans than any conflict since World War II. This is a big deal.
Prestigious journals like these have never endorsed a candidate before because no administration has previously botched a public health crisis in this manner. NEJM writes, "... our leaders in the US have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy." Since the first wave of the virus abated, the United States leads the world in COVID-19 cases and in deaths from the disease.
The great irony of leading the world in COVID-19 deaths is that the United States leads the world in the capacity to control a pandemic. We have a world-class biomedical research system, expertise in public health and science; we have manufacturing capacity and business leaders willing to do their part, yet despite all that, NEJM states "The administration has turned to uninformed ‘opinion leaders’ and charlatans who obscure the truth and facilitate the promulgation of outright lies."
More than 220,000 people have died in the United States from COVID-19, yet the disastrous effects of mismanagement of the pandemic extend even further. The high disease rate has prevented children from attending school, which has long-term consequences for their social and intellectual development. It has prevented businesses from reopening, causing the loss of hundreds of billions of dollars and millions of jobs.
It has put health care professionals at greater risk than necessary and has damaged trust in our institutions. And since it disproportionately affects communities of color, it has added to racial tensions associated with inequality.
Handling a global pandemic and public health crisis as "politics as usual" is leading to hundreds of thousands of American deaths. It’s time to put politics aside in favor of something all reasonable people can get behind: prioritizing safety and well-being in a time of crisis.
Ximena M. Garcia, M.D., is a retired physician who lives in Topeka.