by Tom Robertson
Executive Director, Vizient Research Institute



There are days in our lives that we’ll never forget. Weddings, births, anniversaries, celebrations. Some happy, others sad. Among those memorable days, however, an even smaller handful stand out. One of that smaller handful is the day that we get our first driver’s license.

After a year of anticipation and months of practice that begin by steering wide circles around an empty parking lot on a Sunday afternoon and ends with a nerve-wracking proficiency exam sitting beside a civil servant holding a wooden clipboard, you stare at a laminated plastic card and make eye contact with a grinning picture of yourself looking back. They didn’t have to tell you to smile for the photo; it would have been more helpful had they reminded you to breathe.

Heading home from the driver’s test, you open the windows and feel the air rushing by. It almost feels like you’re outside for the first time. Free to move about. To come and go. To travel. To explore. To enjoy. The most common minimum age for a driver’s license is sixteen. Interestingly, you cannot rent a car until you’re at least eighteen; it takes years for experience to overtake exuberance among young drivers. Nevertheless, the day we get our first driver’s license is one of that small handful of days we will never forget.

I’ve been driving for almost 50 years, but I recently had one of those days that I’ll never forget. After a year of anticipation, with very little moving around, with restricted travel, limited exploration, and less than usual to enjoy, I received my first dose of COVID vaccine. There were no fireworks, and no parade — we haven’t had fireworks or parades for some time — but it felt like there should be. I thanked the health care workers whose kindness and enthusiasm would give no hint that they had done this thousands of times during the week. My instinct was to hug them, but with social distancing still a fact of life, I couldn’t. I was given an appointment to return in three weeks for the second dose. I wouldn’t miss it.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on the emotion I was feeling until one of my best friends, a doctor, pointed out that getting the vaccine is liberating…perhaps even more liberating than getting our first driver’s license. That was it. That perfectly described the emotion. We’re not out of the woods yet. Like a 16-year-old driver, we need to be careful, to proceed cautiously. We can’t drive recklessly; we need to protect the other drivers on the road. But we can feel the air through the windows. We can look forward to moving about. To traveling. To exploring. To enjoying.

The day that I received my first dose of vaccine is one of life’s small handful of days that I’ll remember forever.             

About the author: As executive director of the Vizient Research Institute, Tom Robertson and his team have conducted strategic research on clinical enterprise challenges for more than 25 years. The groundbreaking work at the Vizient Research Institute drives exceptional member value using a systematic, integrated approach. The investigations quickly uncover practical, tested results that lead to measurable improvement in clinical and economic performance.

Published: April 27, 2021