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In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, classes at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine have transitioned to an online learning format.

Published Apr 1st, 2020

By Lindsay Mott

In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, classes at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine have transitioned to an online learning format. One example is the use of technology by faculty and third-year clerkship students as they continue an important progression in their medical school education.

"Our goal, while online, is to continue to deliver a high-quality educational experience to provide students the medical knowledge necessary to care for patients when they are able to resume clinical activity," said T.J. Hundley, M.D., associate dean of medical education at the USA College of Medicine.

During the third year of medical school, USA medical students participate in clerkships in family medicine, internal medicine, neurology, OB-GYN, pediatrics, psychiatry and surgery. The clerkships form the foundation of the third year of medical school in which medical students use knowledge gained from their preclinical years and begin to apply it in the real world with real patients, under the direction of resident and attending physicians. The goal is to form them into competent physicians able to function in the real world and ready to move on to residency.

The surgical clerkship students recently received their first team-based learning (TBL) exercise from William Richards, M.D., F.A.C.S., professor and chair of surgery, through the Zoom online conferencing application. TBL involves a lecture and then an interactive case study based on a clinical scenario, according to John Hunter, M.D., F.A.C.S., assistant professor of surgery, who is co-director the surgery clerkship along with Linda Ding, M.D., F.A.C.S., assistant professor of surgery.

Typically, these students would spend the majority of their time in the hospital, so the online format is a change, but this format allows them to continue all of their lectures and small group sessions. The students are also still able to directly interact with faculty and ask questions.

“This is a crucial time in these students’ medical career,” Hunter said. “It’s important that they continue their educational activities despite not being able to be inside the hospital.”

Hunter said the online classes have gone smoothly for both the faculty and the students. He credits Julie Estis, Ph.D., director of academic enhancement at USA and a team-based learning collaborative certified trainer-consultant, and the USA Innovation in Learning Center staff for helping to quickly educate the faculty on the new technology.

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