|LETTER TO EDITOR
|Year : 2019 | Volume
| Issue : 2 | Page : 46-47
Medical students in the time of COVID-19: Age Quod Agis
Urshalla Gupta1, Krishna Adit Agarwal2
1 Department of Medicine, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Subharti Medical College, Swami Vivekanand Subharti University, Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, India
2 Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
|Date of Submission||07-Jun-2020|
|Date of Acceptance||16-Jun-2020|
|Date of Web Publication||11-Aug-2020|
House# 987, Sector 14, Gurgaon - 122 001, Haryana
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Gupta U, Agarwal KA. Medical students in the time of COVID-19: Age Quod Agis. Indian J Colo-Rectal Surg 2019;2:46-7
“Every patient you see is a lesson in much more than the malady from which he suffers,” Sir William Osler. As an 18-year old entering medical college, all I wanted was to be part of a life-saving medical team. It was not until October 2018 when I started clinical rotations as part of the third-semester curriculum. Then, on January 30, 2020, the first case of COVID-19 in India was reported in Kerala. It spread like wildfire and brought life to a standstill. On March 18, 2020, we, the medical students, were asked to evacuate the campus as part of the national lockdown. I wanted to stay back and help, but everyone except essential health-care workers were advised to stay home. Medical education was about to change drastically. Long before I realized what this meant, my Professor was teaching me clinical medicine from a computer screen. But can a medical student truly learn medicine outside the clinic?
In the rigorous and fast-paced curriculum of medical school, a long break in education can leave an enduring footprint. Most aspects of medical training such as multidisciplinary discussions, history taking, and physical examination skills cannot be learned through online platforms. The paucity of student–patient interaction can lead to mediocre communication skills which are the cornerstone of clinical practice. Merely watching physical examination videos can never substitute for actual inspection, palpation, percussion, and auscultation. At the end of the day, we practice medicine to save lives.
Virtual teaching has its social challenges as well. Due to the increased workload from COVID-19, it is a herculean task to schedule lectures, especially in departments like medicine. Economically weaker students may not even have access to an Internet connection. Being away from the lecture halls and streamed into our home, online lectures fail to kindle enthusiasm. Some students engage only for the “minimum attendance” obligations. The new Attitude, Ethics, and Communication guidelines for the MBBS curriculum have introduced clinical rounds, case discussions, mental health, public health, and communication skills lectures in the first year. This new curriculum is not well described in books, yet making self-study difficult. Likewise, online testing for regular semester exams has not been conducted extensively so far.
There is a lot of anxiety on how this period will be compensated. There is uncertainty about when the classroom sessions will resume. Even when colleges resume, there is a disquietude about how safe it will be to enter hospitals. There is also a concern if enough personal protective equipment (PPE) will be available for every student. In addition, there is a concern how safe it will be to travel back to college and how the administration will screen students coming back from all over the country. Will the current session be extended? If yes, will private colleges charge separately for the extended sessions? This can be a significant financial stress since most private colleges charge ₹1–2 million per annum.
Cracks are most visible when the surface is wet, but that is also how the light gets in. The government has announced a ₹150 billion (US$2.1 billion) aid for the health-care sector. This money will be used to develop testing facilities, PPEs, intensive care units, ventilators, and to train medical workers. This will spur more postulants in the field and may improve the 1.34:1000 doctor–patient ratio. The COVID-19 pandemic has given enough elbow room for online teaching platforms such as Marrow, Prepladder, and E-Gurukul which have even offered significant discounts during this time to attract membership. For graduating seniors, this is an opportune moment to prepare for postgraduate examinations. These challenging times have also urged for stronger amalgamation of medical, pharmaceutical, and biological research fields to reform the future of medicine. As Charles Darwin said, “It's not the strongest of species that survives nor the most intelligent. It is the most adaptable.” Students who are better able to adapt to this unique situation will think outside of the box and spearhead medical education reforms.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
| References|| |
Medical Council of India. AETCOM; 2018.
Davey S, Davey A, Srivastava A, Sharma P, Vihar P. Privatization of medical education in India: A health system dilemma. Int J Med Public Health 2014;4:17-22. [Full text]
Kumar R, Pal R. India achieves WHO recommended doctor population ratio: A call for paradigm shift in public health discourse! J Fam Med Prim Care 2018;7:841-4.