William J. Hueston, MD; Elizabeth M. Petty, MD
The rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic has challenged health systems and created socioeconomic devastation worldwide. Medical student education has not been immune to these disruptive forces. Medical schools and medical students have had to quickly adapt to frequently changing conditions that have significantly affected the timely delivery of planned hands-on education and student learning in clinical settings.
For students engaged in nonclinical portions of their curriculum, restrictions on public gatherings designed to slow community spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus made in-person face-to-face large and small group learning sessions impossible. Students engaged in clinical education across most of the United States, including Wisconsin, were abruptly removed from hospital and clinic settings in mid-March 2020, as guided by the Association of American Medical Colleges and public health experts, to reduce viral spread, ensure their safety, and reserve limited supplies of personal protective equipment for experienced providers. These actions urgently challenged medical educators to find new ways to continue meaningful education. Simply pausing students’ educational progression was not a viable or desirable option given physician shortages across Wisconsin and beyond. Students need to progress through medical school in a timely manner to replenish the physician workforce.
Both the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and the Medical College of Wisconsin rapidly deployed novel means of curriculum delivery. This commentary provides summaries of how COVID-19 has reshaped education in these two institutions.