HMS Students’ COVID Mobilization

Shivangi Goel, Derek Soled

websiteA Summary of Soled D, Goel S, Barry D, Erfani P, Joseph N, Kochis M, Uppal N, Velasquez D, Vora K, Scott KW. Medical student mobilization during a crisis: lessons from a COVID-19 medical student response team. Academic Medicine. 2020 Apr 27.1

At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare workers across the country were deeply affected, experiencing dramatically increasing patient deaths, heavy workloads, and personal concern for their health and their lives.2 At the same time, medical students were pulled from the frontlines in combatting this pandemic due to fears about COVID-19 spreading in the context of insufficient infection control practices, a lack of COVID-19 testing, and shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE).3 The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) released guidelines regularly beginning March 17, 2020 suggesting to medical schools that students should not play any role in direct patient care.4 While medical educators worked on creating virtual curricula,5 alternative educational resources and more aligned structures of clinical education,6 students who worked in hospitals side-by-side with healthcare providers serving patients felt a profound loss in their identity and purpose.

Medical students mobilized in response to this action to support the medical and broader community during these desperate times. Harvard Medical School (HMS) student leaders formed the COVID-19 Medical Student Response Team on March 15, 2020. The Student Response Team’s goals were to optimize systems to gather interested students to work on the COVID-19 response and to engage the HMS administration and hospital leaders to identify community needs and involve students in these efforts. Through regular, daily open communication with the student body and support from the administration, we engaged over 500 students across all years in roles organized in the following four communities: Education for the Medical Community, Education for the Broader Community, Activism for Clinical Support, and Community Activism (For details, see: https://covidstudentresponse.org/).

The HMS COVID-19 Medical Student Response Team created programs with far-reaching impact. Enlisting faculty collaboration, students at HMS created a medical curriculum (available at https://curriculum.covidstudentresponse.org/) about topics pertinent to COVID-19 including Virology, Health Disparities, and Medical Ethics. This 8-module teaching and learning program has been adopted by medical schools across the world and used by individuals in over 109 countries. The Student Response Team also influenced thousands of individuals across diverse backgrounds by reaching populations that may otherwise not have access to accurate medical news and information. Through the use of social media platforms including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, we offered resources that provided accessible and relatable content regarding public health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. In parallel to these efforts, hundreds of students worked in Boston-based hospitals and clinics to provide clinical care to non-COVID patients and support frontline healthcare workers and reduce their burden.

Our community’s efforts demonstrated the value of medical students during global disasters. We showed that we can leverage this large workforce, clinical knowledge and experience, and passion and dedication to improving public health. We hope that the international mobilization of medical students will promote the integration of trainees into the healthcare delivery system and help us better prepare for future emergencies.

Editors’ note: This HMS student achievement was published in Academic Medicine alongside over 50 articles on the topic of medical education and COVID. The AAMC collection of publications is ongoing and found in this link.7 The Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) has also created a series of resources related to accreditation and found in this link.

References:

1. Soled D, Goel S, Barry D, Erfani P, Joseph N, Kochis M, Uppal N, Velasquez D, Vora K, Scott KW. Medical student mobilization during a crisis: lessons from a COVID-19 medical student response team. Academic Medicine. 2020 Apr 27.

2. Spoorthy MS. Mental health problems faced by healthcare workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic-a review. Asian Journal of Psychiatry. 2020 Jun 1. 

3. Wang JJ, Deng A, Tsui BC. COVID-19: novel pandemic, novel generation of medical students. British Journal of Anaesthesia. 2020 Jun 2.

4. https://www.aamc.org/system/files/2020-04/meded-April-14-Guidance-on-Medical-Students-Participation-in-Direct-Patient-Contact-Activities.pdf

5. Rose S. Medical student education in the time of COVID-19. Jama. 2020 Mar 31.

6. Gill D, Whitehead C, Wondimagegn D. Challenges to medical education at a time of physical distancing. Lancet (London, England). 2020 Jun 11.

7. Academic Medicine Collection, COVID-19 and Medical Education. Creator: Journal Staff Updated: 8/7/2020. Contains: 52 items. Available at https://journals.lww.com/academicmedicine/pages/collectiondetails.aspx?TopicalCollectionId=68&utm_source=sfmc&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=amexpress&utm_content=newsletter&utm_source=sfmc&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pophealth&utm_content=newsletter