Academic leaders reacted quickly and creatively to help medical students, graduate students, health professions students, residents, and other learners stay on track to complete coursework, licensing exams, and other requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Major events, including Match Day and graduation, became virtual events. With in-person gatherings restricted in March, medical students were moved to online learning. As telehealth expanded, a COVID-19 Follow-up Telemedicine elective was added to train students by allowing them to interact with recovering COVID-19 patients by phone. Clinical rotations for third- and fourth-year students, initially suspended, resumed on adjusted schedules by June and July, and the length of some clerkships were shortened.
Research laboratories began to reopen at 50 percent capacity by late May as faculty members devised new ways for graduate students and fellows to continue their training within the new guidelines. As a new school year began in August, the Medical School Class of 2024 was welcomed to campus with a virtual orientation designed with interactive events so students would meet each other.
Residents and fellows stepped up to staff high-volume clinical areas in need of extra support due to the pandemic.
Through it all, the positive spirit of UTSW’s students and learners shined through, exemplified by the hundreds of students who volunteered to assist the Health System in its response to the pandemic.
Virtual courses and Zoom meetings have become the norm for many UT Southwestern students this past year in response to COVID-19. For medical student graduates of 2020, the historic year included the challenge of completing their education with reduced in-person clinical training and launching their careers during a pandemic. Several graduates shared their stories, challenges, and concerns.
On March 20, with the pandemic restricting large gatherings, students from the Medical School Class of 2020 logged onto Zoom with classmates and faculty to find out where they had matched for residency. The virtual celebration included speeches from Deans, as well as President Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, followed by the excitement of students opening their match results sent via email.
The pandemic added a heightened sense of urgency to on-the-job training for many first-year residents, who had to learn new routines regarding patient care, personal protective equipment, and shift procedures. Four emergency medicine residents shared their experiences.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Dallas, students launched a volunteer effort to assist. More than 350 students from UT Southwestern’s three schools signed up to answer phones, screen hospital visitors, and deliver supplies. “Volunteering to help relieve the pressure is the least we can do to try and make their lives just a little bit easier. And when the alternative is to sit on my couch and just watch it all unfold, the choice is clear,” said medical student Anurag Gupta.
The weeklong orientation for the Medical School Class of 2024 shifted to a virtual format because of the pandemic. Organizers designed sessions to allow students to meet many of their classmates online and ensure that remote interaction was still lively, engaging, and informative.
Focused on increasing racial diversity among Graduate School faculty, the PROVIDES Program named its first two scholars this year. PROVIDES offers career development resources to postdoctoral fellows from minority groups underrepresented in biomedical science, helping to put scholars on track to become full-time faculty members.
With student, trainee, and faculty recruits unable to visit campus due to the pandemic, a video was produced to reveal an expansive look at how UTSW educates, discovers, and heals. The virtual tour has become an invaluable recruiting tool in the era of COVID-19.
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