Best-Laid Plans

A portrait of Emory Magazine managing editor Roger Slavens

I hadn’t planned on writing an editor’s note for this issue of Emory Magazine.

In fact, I don’t think I’ve written one in the past twenty years—not even to introduce myself to readers when I took the helm of a new publication. (For the record, I am indeed new to Emory and this is my first issue editing the magazine. Hello!) Ideally, I would rather remain in the background and let the inspiring stories speak for themselves and have the beautiful imagery take center stage.

But then again, I hadn’t planned on having to rethink the entire magazine midway through the production process. Our cover story was supposed to be about Emory’s longstanding commitment to sustainability and resilience, showcasing the many ways the university is leading the way in sustainability research, teaching, practice, and more. Months of meetings and discussions and organization had gone into it.

COVID-19 changed our best-laid plans. Just like it did for everyone else on the planet.

As the pandemic soon became the most dominant thought on our minds here at Emory, I knew we had to share with you some of the impact that your alma mater—and its alumni, faculty, staff, and students—were having on the frontline response to the coronavirus. Not surprisingly, I received a big dose of perspective when I started contacting and interviewing health care workers whose lives were upended and put at considerable risk by COVID-19. 

Talking to Justin Schrager, an ER doctor making huge personal sacrifices to treat the sick coming into Emory University Hospital, brought the crisis closer. He was betting his own health and isolating himself from his family, including a newborn daughter, to treat patients and “flatten the curve.” I next spoke with Donté Flanagan, a nurse anesthetist in New Orleans who heeded the call to use his expertise in intubation and ventilation to help some of the worst afflicted be able to breathe. Flanagan told me he knows whenever he intubates patients, there’s always a chance he may be the last person they ever speak to.

I learned very quickly that facing a little more challenge in putting together a magazine was a minor inconvenience that paled in comparison to what these frontline workers were being called to do. Other Emory leaders also have been stepping up in a number of different ways. They include an associate medical director acting as a voice for truth and reason in the national media, an ER nurse pulling double duty to help coordinate drive-through testing, a tech-savvy administrator guiding Emory’s faculty to adjust quickly to remote teaching, a small business owner using his rum distillery in Hawaii to make hand sanitizer for local hospitals, and future epidemiologists recruiting fellow students to volunteer for the response.

Flip to the front of the magazine, and you can read all of their compelling stories of resourcefulness and resilience. But know that they represent just a small sample of the things Emory and its people are doing to fight the coronavirus and aid humanity during this extraordinary time.  

In these pages, you’ll also find that resilience isn’t the only common ground shared by the pandemic response and the concept of sustainability. Through careful thought and execution, we were not only able to keep a great deal of our planned sustainability focus intact, but also we were able to update these stories to demonstrate the ways conservation and global health issues are interconnected.

What we couldn’t fit into print, we’ve published online at in greater depth. Be on the lookout over the next several months for our digital storytelling to ramp up with more dynamic content—published more frequently—as we retool Emory Magazine’s web offerings.

Stay healthy and safe,

Roger Slavens, Managing Editor

Email the Editor

Share This Story