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How Preclinical Medical Students Have Embraced Advocacy Amid Virtual Education

By Tarika Srinivasan

On February 28th, 2020, after an hour of incessantly refreshing my email inbox, I received an acceptance letter to my dream medical school. That same day, a conference in the city I would soon call home became the superspreader nexus from which up to 300,000 COVID-19 infections have been traced.

The ensuing months, which were meant to be an exercise in pomp and circumstance, were marked by a steady stream of anxiety, frustration, and disappointment associated with virtual learning.

As first-year medical students, it is hard not to feel that we comprise the bottom rung of a long, rigid hierarchy. We are fully aware of the limited role we play in this pandemic; we lack the useful clinical skills of a final-year medical student or an employed resident. Our presence in the hospital is more of a liability than an asset.

We witnessed classes of fourth-years graduating early to serve on the front-lines of the spring first wave (though reception to this call of duty ranged from appreciation to apprehension). We imagined that in a few short years, we too might be deemed so “essential” that folks would be clamoring to have us serve on the wards.

But, despite our limited skills, we preclinical students decided we could not simply wait in the wings for our cue. Though we were dedicated to the didactic portion of our curriculum, we were itching to be involved in the action. Thus, we sought to expand the scope of what medical students could do during a pandemic.

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