Med students organize course on pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted the educational trajectory of medical students when it first began. While students nationwide were not able to participate in the clinical learning environment due to the unknown disease, two Baylor medical students took the initiative to learn more about the response and what they could do in the ongoing pandemic.

Kaelyn Cummins and Katie Naeger

Kaelyn Cummins, left, and Katie Naeger

Kaelyn Cummins and Katie Naeger, third-year medical students at Baylor, formed the idea to create a preclinical elective about Baylor’s response to the pandemic. The two had originally planned for the course to be a retrospective look at the response to the virus, but the pandemic is still ongoing six months later.

“We were curious about how Baylor was handling the pandemic and how the response was going across the country in general. Our idea was largely driven by personal interest,” Cummins said.

Although Cummins and Naeger understood why adjustments were made when the pandemic started, they wanted to learn more about this important time in medicine from experts on the frontlines. They created the preclinical elective, COVID-19: Perspectives from the Frontlines, for first- and second-year medical students to dive deeper into the medical response by Baylor faculty. Lectures included:

“What stood out to me while we were planning this was how many different aspects of the healthcare field go into responding to the pandemic – mental health professionals, telemedicine, vaccine development – it’s a whole spectrum of different parts of the medical field that have to work together and all play a different role in this pandemic,” Naeger said.

Dr. Prathit Kulkarni, assistant professor of medicine-infectious disease, serves as the elective’s course director. “I was so impressed by how much initiative Ms. Cummins and Ms. Naeger took in creating this elective. They had an idea and were able to see it through to completion. I am also deeply grateful to all of our faculty who volunteered their time and expertise to work with our medical students,” Kulkarni said.

Sixty-five first- and second year medical students enrolled in the course; they were able to form a holistic perspective of many different facets of responding to a pandemic situation.

A look at participants and curricula by Zoom.

A look at participants and curricula by Zoom.

“We would love for this to be a continued conversation and a continued class, so we’re thinking of recruiting students to carry it on to be a retrospective look at coronavirus, as well as a general look at how the medical field responds to disasters. This is an incredibly valuable time in medicine, so I think it has a lot of value outside this immediate time period,” Naeger said.

-By Homa Shalchi