S1240 Education Innovation During COVID-19 Pandemic: Using an Interactive Instant Message Application to Enhance GI Fellowship Education : Official journal of the American College of Gastroenterology | ACG

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S1240 Education Innovation During COVID-19 Pandemic: Using an Interactive Instant Message Application to Enhance GI Fellowship Education

Lee, Tzu-Hao MD1; King, Lindsay MD2; Patel, Amit MD1; Zhang, Cecelia MD2; Patel, Yuval A. MD, MHS2; Kothari, Darshan MD1

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The American Journal of Gastroenterology 115():p S622-S623, October 2020. | DOI: 10.14309/01.ajg.0000707008.19264.25
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Gastroenterology (GI) fellowship programs have traditionally relied on regular in-person conferences to deliver core curricular topics and maintain a sense of community amongst fellows and faculty. The need for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic has eliminated in-person educational opportunities, posing challenges to curriculum delivery. The modern learner often uses instant messaging applications (IMA), such as WhatsApp© (Facebook Inc, Menlo Park, CA) to engage in group conversations. In our study, we aimed to determine how effectively a formal education initiative using the WhatsApp© platform could engage GI fellows in delivery of educational content and promoting of community during social isolation.


We created a secure message group in WhatsApp©, which included all 13 GI fellows at our institution and 4 faculty members who facilitated daily discussion by posting interactive GI questions (Image 1). All participants used their personal smart devices to access the WhatsApp© application. Fellows received an anonymous survey prior to the start of the study and at 4 weeks. This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board.


Twelve GI fellows completed the baseline survey, and 10 participated in the 1-month survey. Fifty percent of the participants were first-year fellows. All participated fellows are all between 25 to 35 years old. Engagement: 50% of the participants reported they read group discussion at least 1-2 times a day, and 60% replied to the group at least once a week (Figure 1). Enhanced learning: 90% of fellows agreed that the WhatsApp© group improved both overall and subspecialty GI knowledge (Figure 2). 90% of fellows appreciated the in-depth hypothetical case discussions. 70% of fellows appreciated the clinical guideline shared in the group and the ability to interact with faculty members. Decreased Isolation: 40% of fellows reported that the WhatsApp© group helped them connect with their colleagues and reduce the feeling of isolation. Feedback: 4 fellows liked the “bite-size” information, which can be absorbed quickly. 2 fellows reported not having enough time to participate in the discussion while on a busy rotation.


Our pilot study suggests that instant messaging applications are effective platforms that may be used to enhance GI education, particularly during social isolation. Further work is needed to determine if engagement is durable over time.

Figure 1.:
Self-reported frequency of participation in the WhatsApp© group.
Figure 2.:
Effectiveness of the WhatsApp© group to enhance GI learning.
Figure 3.:
Example of the educational content shared in the WhatsApp©group.
© 2020 by The American College of Gastroenterology