June 26, 2020

Students, Educators Transfer Teaching to Virtual Learning

By Katrina Dupins
When UAMS sent students home March 13 for the rest of the school year to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the College of Medicine quickly transitioned classroom instruction to online learning.

“We had to be flexible,” said James Graham, M.D., executive associate dean for academic affairs in the UAMS College of Medicine. “The online format had some challenges at first, but we found ways to work through it. We understood it was important that the students finish their education so they could graduate, go on to residency training, and become part of the health care workforce.”

Because it was clear that the novel coronavirus would not be going away anytime soon, College of Medicine Dean Christopher Westfall, M.D., encouraged faculty members to develop a training program all about COVID-19 that would help prepare students in the clinical setting.

“The idea was that when these students did get back in the clinic, they would be experts on this new infection. We wanted them to understand everything from the basic science of the virus and its structure, to screening protocol and treatment,” Graham said.

A planning group – which included virologists, microbiologists, internists, and infectious disease specialists – developed the course as a series of recorded lectures and live virtual panels through Zoom. The two-week course became a requirement for all seniors before they graduated in May. By late June, Graham says nearly all medical students have gone through this course.

UAMS medical students have also been doing innovative work in the Simulation Center, includes working in shifts to ensure social distancing. The center has been particularly beneficial for anesthesia residents who can use the manikins to simulate intubation.

“The simulation center has always provided an important place to train people for rare and critical emergencies,” Graham said. “That aspect has become even more important now as some clinical activities are riskier because of the virus.”

This month, medical students have been incorporated back into clinical rotations. The plan is for all students to be back on campus in August.