Being Stoic


Scott C. Nelson, DPM, FACFAS
ACFAS President

Challenging, uncertain and unprecedented are some adjectives used to describe the current times in which we are living. The seismic impact felt by our country in the last couple of months from the COVID-19 crisis is reverberating for us all. We have been asked to shelter up, quarantine and shut down in an effort to be considerate of others. It is amazing to watch this play out and see the strides we have made. On top of it all, it is almost assured there will be additional aftershocks we will need to work through in the near future and the only guarantee is, change will continue to happen. With significant change comes our “good friends” stress and anxiety, but we can find comfort in knowing we are not the first to deal with these opponents. We can learn from lessons of the past, even as far back as the Roman Empire, about being stoic during times of crisis.

Stoicism during difficult or dark times is a common philosophy and can help mentally frame thinking to ease negative thoughts. Being stoic means, you understand what is in your control and what isn’t and encourages you to turn your attention internally. Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius highlights in his book Meditations four key virtues to happiness: wisdom, courage, justice and self-control. During his reign as emperor he dealt with the ‘Plague of Galen’ (smallpox) and wars, which lead to a decimated economy. He had to sell imperial jewelry, and forced others to as well, in an effort to stimulate the economy (the original stimulus package.) He applied his teachings to help maintain a strong moral character and clear headedness to successfully manage the empire. He made it evident, “You have power over your mind—not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” 

During this pandemic, I have been impressed with how ACFAS is functioning at such a high level despite the obstacles. I am very proud of the staff being able to continue excellence while following the request to stay home while transitioning to a new executive director. The team helped build a COVID Resource Page on our website, which contains valuable resources and content tailored to College members and our specific needs during this ever-changing situation. I encourage everyone to check it out at The work the College is doing on our behalf, such as the  resource page, as well as the collaboration with our partner organizations and working with our local, state and national governments to represent our members, has truly proven  invaluable to us as members and to the  profession. All done under extraordinary circumstances, which is truly impressive, and reminds me of another stoic philosopher Epictetus as he states how situations like this can highlight our true character. “Circumstances don't make the man, they only reveal him to himself.” It’s because of these efforts, we can appreciate that the structure of ACFAS is in great shape and will continue to thrive.  

As the country starts to return to normal  activity, our future endeavors may look differently than they once were—the way we deliver healthcare may include more telemedicine  options and the way we earn our CME may be temporarily altered as well. Fortunately, ACFAS already has a large cache of electronic learning modules for all our members with our ACFAS OnDemand learning platform at Opening this platform further to include residents and students so they could continue their education when elective surgical cases had to be shut down, was an easy decision. The flagships of the  College, including the Journal, our face-to face CME and our ACFAS Annual Scientific Conference will go on and we will continue to work hard to make sure they are still the best in the business, as we’ve all come to expect.  

By learning from the past, we can better prepare for our future. The world has a longstanding history of dealing with adversary and we will have to ensure success during this situation as well.