When clinical rotations were paused, med students found new ways to support Rhode Island’s frontline health care workers.
As Rhode Island confronts the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 150 third- and fourth-year students from the Warren Alpert Medical School are volunteering their time to assist hospitals, health care workers and state health officials.
Based on recommendations from the Association of American Medical Colleges, medical student participation in clinical rotations was suspended on March 17, freeing hours for many students.
“Immediately, the affected medical students started asking what they could do to help,” said Jack A. Elias, MD, senior vice president for health affairs and dean of medicine and biological sciences.
The medical students are offering their expertise in multiple ways. To date, 152 students have volunteered to staff the 24/7 COVID-19 hotline for Lifespan, the state’s largest health system. Students assist a wide range of callers, including providers, patients and concerned members of the community.
Other efforts to assist continue to coalesce daily. Physicians based at practices have requested help from students with phone triage. The Rhode Island Department of Health has reached out in search of clinical student volunteers to take on shifts in which they will contribute in non-exposure settings — notifying patients and physicians of test results, investigating exposures, gathering statewide epidemiological data, and presenting histories to clinical experts as they weigh the need for COVID-19 tests.
Beyond direct medical efforts, students are filling a crucial role with everyday tasks — like child care and grocery shopping — for workers who don’t have the time or resources. Alpert Med Resource Aid, a group of students organized to meet these needs, has 90 students willing to volunteer in some capacity, and contracts for volunteers and aid recipients have been reviewed and approved by Brown’s Office of General Counsel.
The students’ efforts are illustrative of a much broader, still nascent effort at Brown to assist the community in contending with coronavirus on multiple fronts. Elsewhere on campus are other examples: conversations with the state on the use of Brown residence halls during the COVID-19 response; an urgent donation drive for N95 masks, gloves and other supplies for health providers; and faculty and other researchers’ expertise offered to state health officials on everything from laboratory testing to epidemiology to data modeling.
Elias said he’s incredibly proud of the medical students for stepping up so rapidly: “Clearly, no matter where they hail from, our students see Rhode Island as their community now and want to serve this community as much as they can,” he said.
Click here to read a Q&A interview with the medical students spearheading the volunteer efforts: Kira Bromwich ’15 MD’21, Lindsay Dreizler MD’21, Hannah Kerman ’15 MD’21, and Harry VanDusen MD’21.