Students from the Medical College of Georgia, unable to care directly for COVID-19 patients, combined their individual skills to keep accurate information flowing.
I remember coming home to visit my family in March with only enough clothes and toiletries for the weekend. Little did I know that this weekend trip would extend into a move back home to finish the rest of my medical school semester at the Medical College of Georgia (MCG), in Augusta. How would anatomy dissections, small group classes, and exams continue? Closer to home, how would I find toilet paper?
As a medical school student, the pandemic proved to be particularly frustrating. I knew my community in Augusta was hurting, but I was still years away from being able to meaningfully contribute to patient care. However, medical students at MCG along with faculty came together and proved innovative and resilient during these times. Countless Teams calls allowed us to develop ways to serve our communities virtually. For instance, students hand-crafted masks in the thousands and delivered them to peers living in at-risk areas to distribute to patients, healthcare workers, and the public. Others helped outpatient clinicians associated with Augusta University Health system to adapt telemedicine efforts so that they could continue serving their patients.
I found my role in medical education.
Similar to fielding questions from friends about whether they need to see a doctor for an ache or rash, I found friends and family asking me all their COVID-19 related questions. “Are the vaccines going to be safe?” “Is dining in at restaurants okay?” “How about wearing masks outside?”
Anyone in the healthcare field probably experiences similar questions from their loved ones. While most of this information is readily available online, the rapidly changing conditions and recommendations can make it difficult for some to follow, especially those not well-versed in evaluating scientific literature or trustworthy sources.
This situation compelled a group of my peers and me to create an online platform to keep our class of medical students and the Augusta community informed on COVID-19. We started with daily updates directly to our class on topics including vaccine development, policy changes related to COVID-19, and where the latest hotspots were. Since then we have started posting weekly updates on YouTube so that we could reach healthcare students at Augusta University (home of MCG), healthcare professionals associated with MCG, and the general public. Other medical student peers created a website that shares news and myth busters related to the pandemic. We created these online platforms to share important information so that we could reach a community much wider than our family and friends, all in the effort to keep them safe and healthy during this unfamiliar time.
The easiest way to combat this pandemic has been with accurate information about safety: wearing masks, staying socially distant, and sanitizing are tried and true methods. Making sure those in our community, and at the very least our loved ones, understand and follow these measures is a responsibility of healthcare professionals (and we aspiring healthcare professionals). For this reason, it’s important for us to stay informed ourselves so that we can advocate with accurate information.