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Tag: Med

Med students on how COVID-19 pushed them to take action, highlighted health care inequities

It was on a Saturday in mid-March when Abby Schiff, then a third-year medical student at Harvard working through surgery clinical rotations, found out she wouldn’t be going back to the hospital.

She had worked the day before, but with the coronavirus threat growing quickly, Schiff, like thousands of other medical students across the country, was sidelined when the Association of American Medical Colleges issued a temporary suspension of clinical rotations in hopes of protecting students and patients, and conserving personal protective equipment (PPE).

She didn’t sit around waiting, though. As nurses came out of retirement and medical school professors pressed pause on teaching to answer the call to action on the front lines, Schiff also got to work. Within hours, she and a group of other students started building a crash course on COVID-19 for medical professionals.

“At the time, a lot of Harvard medical students were talking about what was going on, and [it] felt like we suddenly had a lot of time on our hands,” Schiff told ABC News. “There was this crisis going on. How can we best contribute?”

PHOTO: Abby Schiff, a fourth-year medical student at Harvard Medical School, helped to create the school's COVID-19 curriculum and still keeps it updated on a regular basis. (ABC News)
PHOTO: Abby Schiff, a fourth-year medical student at Harvard Medical School, helped to create the school’s COVID-19 curriculum and still keeps it updated on a regular basis. (ABC News)

In less than a week, 70 of Schiff’s colleagues, including students and faculty, had put together a comprehensive, open-source COVID-19 curriculum.

“So we had about 80 pages of content — all referenced, all freely available — including things like thought questions, quiz questions… helpful information about how to put on masks and PPE, run ventilators,” she said. “And then also an explainer about basic epidemiological terms, about sort of the basics of virology and immunology and the clinical manifestations that were known at the time.”

Seven months later, the curriculum is still being updated with the latest science on a regular basis. Today, it includes modules on mental health, global health and communication, all meant to “dispel misinformation and myths,” said Schiff.

PHOTO: Fourth-year Harvard medical student Abby Schiff (second from top left) attends a video meeting with her fellow students to discuss updates to their school's open-source COVID-19 curriculum. (Courtesy Abby Schiff )
PHOTO: Fourth-year Harvard medical student Abby Schiff (second from top left) attends a video meeting with her fellow students to discuss updates to their school’s open-source COVID-19 curriculum. (Courtesy Abby Schiff )

As co-chair for outreach, she said her role is to reach out to students and groups that are using the curriculum to get an idea of their needs and how they can best be met, as well as recruiting students to contribute. The curriculum has already been implemented in 32 medical schools across the country as either an elective or mandatory course, and it has been translated into 27 languages and used in at least 110 countries, Schiff said.

“It’s had a really wide reach, including in areas where there are fewer resources available,” she said. “In the age of the internet, and especially when there’s something like this pandemic that’s affecting people in every single country and really just upending the structures of knowledge, it’s really important to keep information