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Lessons From Learners: Adapting Medical Student Education During and Post COVID-19.


In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many medical schools suspended clinical clerkships and implemented newly adapted curricula to facilitate continued educational progress. While the implementation of these new curricula has been described, an understanding of the impact on student learning outcomes is lacking. In 2020, the authors followed Kern's 6-step approach to curricular development to create and evaluate a novel COVID-19 curriculum for medical students at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine and evaluate its learning outcomes. The primary goal of the curriculum was to provide third- and fourth-year medical students an opportunity for workplace learning in the absence of clinical clerkships, specifically for students to develop clerkship-level milestones in the competency domains of practice-based learning and improvement, professionalism, and systems-based practice. The curriculum was designed to match students with faculty-mentored projects occurring primarily in virtual formats. A total of 126 students enrolled in the curriculum and completed a survey about their learning outcomes (100% response rate). Of 35 possible clerkship-level milestones, there were 12 milestones for which over half of students reported development in competency domains including practice-based learning and improvement, professionalism, and interpersonal and communication skills. Thematic analysis of students' qualitative survey responses demonstrated 2 central motivations for participating in the curriculum: identity as physicians-in-training and patient engagement. Six central learning areas were developed during the curriculum: interprofessional teamwork, community resources, technology in medicine, skill-building, quality improvement, and specialty-specific learning. This analysis demonstrates that students can develop competencies and achieve rich workplace learning through project-based experiential learning, even in virtual clinical workplaces. Furthermore, knowledge of community resources, technology in medicine, and quality improvement was developed through the curriculum more readily than in traditional clerkships. These could be considered as integral learning objectives in future curricular design.

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