The Problem: New York City has been the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States and has been hit strongly early on in the crisis. Consequently, COVID-19 has caused a massive shift in our medical education. Many medical students at various institutions have all been tasked to innovate ways to 1. continue our education in alternate ways and 2. brainstorming how medical students with basic clinical training can support our respective healthcare systems during the pandemic. While each institution is unique, many problems related to COVID-19 are similar across healthcare systems and medical schools could benefit from close collaboration on how to face these similar problems. Here, we propose an inter-school collaborative initiative.
Our Approach: Fortunately, there is a high density of academic medical institutions in New York City posed appropriately to assist with the healthcare system efforts against COVID-19. Each institution developed their own grass-roots student volunteering campaigns. Informally, leaders from each school began to contact one another for questions and brainstorming; as these informal collaborations increased in frequency, it became clear that a more formal method of inter-school collaboration was warranted. All New York City-area medical schools were invited through these informal contacts and the all-USA Medical Students v. COVID Slack to join a weekly conference call. The conference call was scheduled on the same day, at the same time each week. During the first call, each school summarized their generic volunteering organization structure and shared contact info of committee leaders, grouped by similar topics across institutions. Each subsequent conference call was conducted as follows:
- A weekly agenda was created by one group representative. The weekly agenda ended in a section titled “Updates”, and all participating schools were encouraged to share their home institution’s updates by one day prior to the weekly call. The facilitator for the week then reviewed these updates, synthesized common themes for group discussion, highlighted weekly accomplishments worth celebrating, and carried over any open requests for assistance or collaboration.
- The facilitator sent a weekly Zoom link out to all participants, who were nominated representatives at each institution.
- The Zoom call followed a general structure as follows: shout-outs to each school for weekly accomplishments, a discussion of ongoing obstacles faced by multiple institutions and how to troubleshoot, brainstorming additional opportunities for collaboration, and open forum for any remaining questions. One call participant each week was tasked with taking notes for that day on the shared agenda.
- After the call, the facilitator sent a summary email to all participants with any follow-up, small-group calls to be conducted that week amongst specialized groups; links shared on the call that week; and information for the next week’s call. Outside of the call, additional collaboration was facilitated through a group Slack composed of student leaders from the NYC-area medical schools. Students were encouraged to use Slack to communicate outside of the conference call to allow for group visibility. This formal weekly conference call and informal communication on Slack enabled us to come up with innovative solutions including a collaborative PPE hotline, which has collected donations nationwide and distributes PPE to hospitals most in need in the NYC area. The inter-institution collaboration helped in identifying which NYC hospital was most in need of resources at a given moment, and allowed for additional manpower in delivery.
Participants: All medical student organization leadership from medical schools across New York City and the surrounding areas. To date, participating schools include: NYU, Sinai, Cornell, Columbia, Einstein, SUNY Downstate, Rutgers
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