“Remember, the last part of any marathon is the hardest.”


These words, spoken by Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, encouraged Nova Scotians to stay strong as the province was thrust into its third wave of COVID-19 this spring.


While we may have grown weary, it’s because we are fighting and refusing to give up — part of our East Coast DNA. The pandemic has united us. Our circumstances and struggles may look a bit different, but together we’ve been living through something for which there is no roadmap.


It’s been nearly a year since I joined the QEII Foundation team, helping to advance health care for our communities. While I’m thrilled to be back in Nova Scotia, it’s certainly been an interesting, often challenging, year.


Words previously foreign to us — physical distancing, self-isolation and PPE — have become part of our everyday vocabulary. Wearing a face mask to the grocery store has become second nature. Virtual connections have taken centre stage, from business meetings to kitchen parties to family gatherings.


Throughout these past few months, I’ve been inspired by our communities, who continue to step up to support patients and healthcare teams. Individuals and businesses, kids and kids at heart, from all corners of our province and beyond, Nova Scotians rallied to support the QEII COVID-19 Response Fund, directly impacting care needs in the QEII’s COVID-19 units and supporting patients after they return home.


And COVID-19 aside, remarkable shifts are happening in our healthcare system, thanks to thousands of donors. Over the last year, we’ve delivered better mental health services, funded new cancer treatments and diagnostic imaging scans and helped open brand-new interventional radiology suites for minimally invasive procedures from head to toe.


All of these milestones were reached during a global pandemic — and that says something really special about the people in our communities.


As plans for QEII New Generation take shape at what is currently the QEII’s Halifax Infirmary site (check out the photo essay in this issue), the QEII Foundation has aspirational goals to take health care to new heights, now and into the future. We are committed to supporting the changing healthcare needs of Atlantic Canadians.


We all know that health care is about more than new buildings; it’s thousands of people delivering exceptional care every day. With support from our communities, the QEII Foundation will provide next generation technology to advance diagnoses and treatment for patients from across Atlantic Canada.


But the real transformation will be in what is enabled by both the new facilities, including the ability to recruit world-leading physicians and staff, and by community support for the QEII Foundation’s investments in new ways of delivering care, both in and through the QEII. And it will elevate the QEII’s research, innovation and discovery mandate to new possibilities.


As we continue to make our way through the pandemic, I want to acknowledge the front-line healthcare workers who step up to the plate every day to care for those of us in need; the support teams working behind the scenes; individuals and organizations who continue to support our health heroes in creative ways; and each and every Nova Scotian working to stop this virus in its tracks.


We’ll get through this. Together.