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NYMC Medical Students Participate in Medical Education Subway Summit 2020

The Medical Education Subway Summit is a platform for inter-institutional collaboration for faculty, house staff and medical students.

June 08, 2020
Medical Education Subway Summit 2020
Medical Education Subway Summit 2020

Erva Khan, M.D., ’20, and Mathias Palmer, SOM Class of 2021, represented NYMC’s overall student volunteer response and mediated the plenary session. Other medical students including members of the SOM Class of 2021, Bertie Zhang, Kristina Bortfeld, Melanie Winters, Jesse Honig, Tiffany Truong, Phil Sang, and Naveena Sunkara, as well as Sarriyah Hanif, SOM Class of 2023, led breakout panels on volunteer projects covering a variety of subjects including telehealth, PPE distribution, student and resident wellness, clinical volunteering, community outreach and addressing inequities.

“First and foremost, I was excited and proud to see how quickly my peers at NYMC and colleagues at other medical schools in the New York metropolitan area mobilized and coordinated efforts in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Being a part of the medical community at the nation’s COVID-19 epicenter meant that we not only witnessed just how devastating this public crisis is, but it also led to the opportunity to be the first to respond and set a tone for those watching,” said Mr. Sang, a panelist on the clinical volunteering breakout session. “In the end, I recognized the responsibility we all have to disseminate what we know so others can prepare for their own public health confrontations.”

Ms. Bortfeld co-led the panel on addressing inequities. She explained how COVID-19 highlights pre-existing inequalities in access to health care, from public health information to social services and direct medical care. Socioeconomic factors like poverty and social exclusion increase the risk of chronic diseases, which drive much of the morbidity and mortality rates of COVID-19. “One very interesting takeaway from the Summit was the importance of the sustainability of these projects and future projects—how they can be built into medical student networks,” said Ms. Bortfeld. Explaining why sustaining the current work will be vital she continued, “First, there is thought from researchers that this is just the first wave, and we may need to be prepared for a second wave. Second, is the ethics surrounding their existence since many of the projects serve populations that were vulnerable before the pandemic. Is it ethical to stop serving these populations as the pandemic subsides? Why not have this support become a norm?” 

Ms. Bortfeld said she will share what she learned at the Summit with her colleagues in medical school and moving forward to residency, specifically the creation of a social determinants of health needs assessment prior to establishing new projects. “This type of framework highlights the importance of identifying where students and volunteers can help by working with local community based organizations and asking them what needs can be filled, as well as creating algorithms so assessments are done uniformly,” she said.

“The Summit left me inspired about volunteerism and provided more ideas and motivations to change the curriculum,” said Ms. Zhang. “I am grateful for the opportunity to have increased intercollegiate collaboration with multiple schools. Now I have many connections with like-minded students.” She also found it interesting to learn how other schools have worked with their students in light of the pandemic.

Likewise, Mr. Honig thought one of the best lessons was hearing some of the ways that medical schools were able to go virtual and incorporate telemedicine. “For instance, New York University Grossman School of Medicine students developed a program utilizing telemedicine to help patients at a local methadone clinic. To me this was particularly inspiring as I had never considered this community as one that might have been affected by the pandemic, but it obviously makes sense that this sort of service could no longer be provided as originally intended,” said Mr. Honig. “I think the biggest takeaway going forward, however, is to see how quickly everyone was able to rally together and create virtual alternatives for things we are all so used to doing in person. Change isn’t easy, particularly in medicine, but I think going forward it’s inspiring to see how flexible we can be, and hopefully use this to increase access to health care and various resources in the future.”

Ms. Hanif was a leader for the community outreach session. She shared information about the initiative, “Phone-a-Senior,” where NYMC medical students engage in Zoom video chats with residents at a hard-hit nursing home in Queens. “It garnered a great deal of interest since this was the only program of its kind. Medical students might not be able to work the frontlines, but they quickly and effectively created a plethora of programs to assist the community and those who are fighting on the frontlines,” said Ms. Hanif.

Ms. Hanif’s realization from the Summit was the uncertainty of the future of the projects and what would be done in the event of a resurgence. “There has been talk about trying to incorporate these volunteer programs into the curriculum. Personally, I am continuing the video chats over the summer, since we do not know when the nursing homes will allow visitors, and the students and nursing home residents have become very attached. Hopefully someday, in a COVID-19 vaccinated world, the students will get to meet the participants they have been chatting with for weeks,” she said. “The Subway Summit really showcased the adaptability and willingness of students to help during these trying times.”