Secondary Logo

Journal Logo

Teaching and Learning Moments

The COVID-19 Curriculum

Rosen, Kate

Author Information
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000003514
  • Free

“Never let school get in the way of your education,” my father often quipped. Now, I find myself with a paucity of schooling and an abundance of education. It has been 21 days since I received an email instructing all students to leave clinical rotations immediately.

Right now, I should be on my OB/GYN rotation. I imagined that during the month of April, I would be listening to women’s concerns, delivering babies, observing terrified new fathers, and perhaps learning what it means for a woman to be G4P2002. I looked forward to the (sometimes painful) growing that I would do in my first clerkship—the reprimands from attendings, raised eyebrows from scrub nurses, and deep sighs from residents that would give me material for my list, “Ways to Make a Fool of Myself.” I looked forward to showing up every morning eager to learn and returning home each night completely saturated from the day’s events. I looked forward to practicing the skills of our craft: taking a history, giving a presentation, investigating the literature, and discussing treatment options with patients.

In short, I looked forward to taking one gregarious step toward becoming a doctor. I felt like a kindergartner on the front steps of my house, about to step off the front porch for the first day of school—pigtails braided, Chuck Taylors double-knotted, and a backpack held tight with the crook of each thumb. I had the knowledge I had gained from 19 years of schooling and the time had come for me to take the leap into the real world. I was on the verge! The great trampoline bounce before the circus trick. The great catalyst of academic momentum ready to slingshot me forward. Then, the world came to a halt, and I was told to turn around and go back inside. So with slumped shoulders, I did. Or at least I thought I did.

However, in the intervening days and weeks, I have realized that instead, we were all shoved off the front porch into something far more real than a clinical rotation—a master class in viral pandemics and their impact on humanity.

Here is the syllabus:

  1. How to talk to friends and family about medicine
    1. “Are viruses alive?”
    2. “Should I clean the outside of this package of cheese?”
    3. “How do they know who gave it to who?”
  2. How to stay up-to-date with rapidly changing literature
  3. How to make decisions in the absence of clear evidence
  4. How to develop systems to identify and support the needs of an organization
  5. How to care for yourself so you are able to support others
  6. How to advise legislators
  7. How to babysit a 9-year-old and a 12-year-old and talk to them about pandemics while their mom is at work as an ICU nurse
  8. How to share experiences with fellow students across the country
  9. How to investigate your own symptoms

While I initially thought my launch into medical society was being delayed, I see now that it was actually rapidly accelerated. In the past month, I have used my skills as an EMT, an improvement scientist, a friend, a daughter, and a medical student to show up for my community.

The COVID-19 curriculum has also taught me that being a doctor isn’t only about giving a perfect presentation, choosing the right antibiotic, or making the right diagnosis. It is about using your knowledge to identify a need in humanity and taking action to fill it.

Copyright © 2020 by the Association of American Medical Colleges