Medical Education: Learning in spite of Covid.

Here we are. It’s July 2020 and in America we find ourselves back in a space of national crisis. And a whole new group or medical students, residents, and faculty are starting a new experience.

With fresh faces joining the group, all eager to learn, I thought it would be a good time to do a podcast about medical education. On the show, I have two guests from the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University, including Dr. Alan Tunkel, the Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education and Leigh Kinney, a rising second year medical student. 

Several things stood out to me about how this national situation is changing things. I think I forgot how vital human connection is in the first years of medical school. When I think back on those times, I remember binders full of notes, re-writing things on white boards, and sitting for hours on end in lecture halls. But I had forgotten the additional hours I spent in small rooms with friends, who are now colleagues, pouring over our notes, speaking out loud until we all understood, and quizzing one another until the endless lists of nerves, disease processes, and chemical structures lodges themselves in our memory. 

Now all of that is different. I am sure that there are socially distanced, masked ways to study in a group. But it won’t be the same. And isolation when under that unique kind of stress can’t be good for the brain. Like so many of us who have reached out to friends over Zoom for sometimes glitchy cocktail hours, I have confidence that the students will rise to the occasion. But I wish that they could have the tiny roomed, late into the night, cramming sessions that my friends and I shared.

My two guests are exceptional people. Dr. Tunkel is well known and beloved by colleagues and students alike, and he was very fun to interview. We spoke of many things, and he made me laugh when we decided that “Covid time” means that things move very quickly, but from your home. He also spoke of his time as a patient, and it stuck with me that he commented “My patients are my heroes.” Word.

Leigh Kinney was a student in my first year histology lab, and I reached out to her in part because her in-person observation was postponed due to Covid-19. She has a breadth of experience, and seems so calm and worldly (especially compared to my memory of myself in medical school). Her parents' motto “Leap and the net will appear” will no doubt serve her well in her future endeavors. I can’t wait to see what she does. And I also can’t wait until it’s safe to talk into someone’s face across the (relatively) close quarters required for good, old-fashioned double headed microscope learning.

Now to the hard work of holding the interest of a new group of students, many of whom will have moved from long distance, to learn histology through Zoom. I can’t wait!

Natalie Banet's Blog @natalie

© Natalie Banet. Views expressed here are mine alone.

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