When MM+M started working on its first print issue of 2022, Delta’s decline had everyone making Thanksgiving plans that didn’t involve socially distanced side dishes. A few weeks later, with the country besieged by Omicron, we dialed back the holiday optimism and revved up the search for government-grade masks and diagnostics. And here we are, once again daring to dream of secure indoor congregation as the current wave ebbs in the Northeast.

All of this, somehow, makes the issue’s central conceit — “The New Not-Normal” 

— more prescient than it was when first proposed. Did we anticipate the hairpin turns of the last 10 weeks? No, we’re not that smart.

But as an industry, we seem to have finally come to terms with the stubbornness and durability of COVID-19. We’ve recalibrated our expectations and acknowledged the reality that post-pandemic life might, in many ways, look a lot like pandemic life. Nobody’s waiting on an all-clear siren from COVID central anymore.

Those adaptations, and especially the ones likely to endure beyond 2022, make up the core of the January–February issue’s content. You’ll hear about the recent steps taken to decentralize and diversify clinical trials, about the hospitalists redefining the terms of their engagement with pharma, about the conversation architects who may or may not eventually replace traditional copywriters.

Even amid the litany of miseries big and small, it has felt liberating to ponder the possibilities. Medical marketing used to take some heat for the skepticism with which it approached technological advances that could, in theory, upend the status quo. In the wake of the industry’s pandemic-era embrace of innovation and of operational flexibility, it’s exciting to imagine everything its sharpest minds will be able to achieve when they aren’t hamstrung by the whims of a deadly virus.

Another variant could knock us back again any day now. But until it does, let’s keep exploring how the adjustments of the last two years can inform the ambitions of the next 10. Let’s dream on SXSW and Cannes and the MM+M Awards.

In just about every story interview over the last two years, I’ve appended my usual closing question — basically, “So, uh, what’s next?” — with a caveat about the folly of predicting more than a few hours into the immediate future. We’ve made lots of predictions over the course of the last two years; many are borderline laughable in retrospect. Remember how virtual doctor visits were going to replace in-person ones?

Given how clear-eyed medical marketers have proven under the most gutting of circumstances, there’s ample reason to buy into their vision.