Studies in Service
Medical students throughout the U.S. have had their training disrupted by the novel coronavirus pandemic, and many have voiced their frustration at being sidelined from helping to care for patients system at a critical time.
Dedicated University of New Mexico medical students have been stepping up by volunteering to babysit and run errands for busy residents and faculty working in the hospital, staffing phone lines and supporting blood drives, among many other projects.
And, as classes have gone entirely virtual, the UNM School of Medicine has created a new COVID-19 block for second- and third-year students that provides them with a unique opportunity to make use of their skills in non-clinical initiatives while continuing to meet their educational goals.
“The COVID block is an attempt to keep them moving, tied to the students’ incredible passion and interest to be of service during this enormously challenging time,” said executive vice dean Martha Cole McGrew, MD.
In March, the School of Medicine joined most U.S. medical schools in withdrawing medical students from clinical settings. With the closing of the UNM campus to students through the end of the spring semester, instruction has become entirely virtual, McGrew said.
“Medical schools all over the country have changed in-person classes to virtual learning,” she said. “While students do not have contact with patients at this time, their virtual classroom learning will be enhanced by the opportunity to learn and grow from the challenges this situation brings and to progress in their medical education at the same time.”
Students are working with faculty mentors to develop and implement service projects to meet community needs in the crisis, McGrew said. All projects will be approved by School of Medicine leadership, the UNM Hospital emergency operations center, or the UNM Health Sciences Center incident management team as appropriate to provide the most-needed service to the community during this crisis.
“Our learners are the reason we exist as an academic institution,” McGrew said. “I am inspired by and proud of the deep commitment and energy of these students and the educators supporting them.”