The President's Message

President's Message, Bruce Jarrell

Each month, The President’s Message updates the UMB community on University initiatives; spotlights faculty, staff, and student achievements; and promotes upcoming UMB events.

Illegitimi Non Carborundum

September 2021

Welcome back to campus! As we embark on this new semester, it’s frustrating that we’re back to wearing masks, worrying about COVID-19 variants, and waiting to see what protocols will be put in place in our children’s elementary, middle, and high schools.

When I was at the University of Arizona decades ago, I had a sign in the drawer of my desk that read “Illegitimi non carborundum.” It’s a mock-Latin phrase that roughly translates to “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” Lately, I’ve been reflecting on that phrase.

Is COVID-19 horrible? Yes. Is it taking up too much of our time and energy and taking us away from focusing on other things? Yes. Are we worried about folks we know and love? Yes.

Will it win? No.

We will not let this particular “bastard” wear us down. You might wonder why I feel confident that we can’t and won’t let COVID-19 consume us. This place, the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), shows me why, every day.

Since January 2020, UMB has worked to understand COVID-19. We’ve developed, tested, and deployed vaccines for it. Medical students treated patients with COVID-19 and nursing students graduated early to join the workforce of first responders. Pharmacy students prepared doses of vaccines to combat it. Dental clinics remained open for emergencies, and the DDS Class of 2020 donated its treasury to the school’s Emergency Student Assistance Fund. Social work students helped created tutorials for families to help get children connected to online school. Law students helped clients impacted by COVID-19. This all happened because UMB has long been a place where we come together to focus on and tackle the most important issues facing our community — and the world.

We were built for this.

That spirit of #UMBTogether inspires me. This place educates and trains the best professionals that Maryland has to offer. We understand that we each have a part to play, and we step up when called. Long before COVID-19, UMB’s mission has been to improve the human condition and serve the public good through education, research, clinical care, and service. This pandemic has highlighted how well-positioned we are to do just that.
This has been an extraordinary time, and I don’t want to lessen the intense impact that so many of us have felt and may continue to feel. But, as I welcome you back to UMB’s campus (with your masks on), I hope that you can take a bit of the “don’t let it grind you down” attitude. COVID-19 will not win, and it will not always be the headline of the nightly news.

My hope is that in a few years we’ll look back at this era and see that during a pandemic we found opportunities to continue to learn, to grow, and to give back. That we chose each other’s safety over the inconvenience of wearing a mask inside. That we found joy in learning new skills, meeting new classmates, and connecting with our co-workers. That we gave back to our community and brought our best selves even when we were worried. We truly did not let the proverbial bastard grind us down.


Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS