When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down in-person classes at schools, colleges and universities nationwide, faculty of the DMU College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery (CPMS) did what other educators had to do – deliver course work to students online and via other virtual channels. But these podiatric faculty went a step above to keep their students actively engaged, learning and looking ahead – by using Zoom, the video/web conferencing platform, to connect them to residency and fellowship program directors across the country.
Mid-March, Assistant Professor Sean Grambart, D.P.M., FACFAS, a 2001 CPMS graduate, recruited four podiatric physicians and residency directors to serve as virtual panelists for clinical case discussion. This also gave the the residency directors the chance to give a description of their residency programs to the students. The directors included Scott Nelson, D.P.M., ACFAS, a 2000 CPMS graduate, president of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) and a foot and ankle surgeon with Catholic Health Initiative Orthopedics Foot and Ankle in Omaha, NE, and Eric Barp, D.P.M., FACFAS, a 2001 CPMS graduate, current member of the ACFAS Board of Directors and an attending surgeon at UnityPoint Health in Des Moines.
That event was followed by more Zoom meetings that connected students with additional residency directors as well as with podiatric physicians. The most recent Zoom meeting served as a Q&A session on podiatric fellowships. More than 100 CPMS students have participated in each Zoom event.
“The exceptional participation of students at these academic forums confirms their enthusiasm and commitment to learn during a time when clinical rotations have been suspended,” says R. Tim Yoho, D.P.M., M.S., ACFAS, dean of the college. “Under the leadership of Dr. Grambart and with the support of CPMS faculty, what started as an add-on learning opportunity has become a means to have our students engage with many national leaders of our profession with long-term application and benefits. By documenting attendance, we are also able to demonstrate to our accreditation agency that we are taking the extra steps to provide our students with the finest podiatric medical education possible during a challenging time.”
CPMS faculty also serve as attending surgeons at UnityPoint Health in Des Moines and have facilitated another Zoom session, a grand rounds on radiology, for its residents, to replace their previous Friday morning in-person education session. Yet another Zoom event for prospective CPMS students was organized by Dean Yoho, other faculty and DMU’s admissions staff, who publicized the event to pre-health advisors, active prospective CPMS students and incoming DMU students. More than 100 prospective students representing nearly 30 undergraduate institutions participated, joined by some students who will enroll in the college this fall.
“COVID-19 is making us think outside the box,” Dr. Grambart says.
While everyone is eager to get back to normal routines and freedoms, the innovative uses of technology that the pandemic has required very likely will be among its lasting lessons.
“After one of the sessions with the residency directors, I got off Zoom, thinking, ‘’Here are these internationally renowned surgeons, and our students were able to directly ask them direct questions,” Dr. Grambart says. “I hope we will continue these sessions even after this pandemic is over. It’s been so beneficial in engaging all our students and getting everyone involved.”