Examining and diagnosing children is not always easy but trainee doctors from Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q) had it harder than usual – they had to do it online.
The Cornell Stars programme is one of the highlights of the academic year for students in the third year of the medical programme; faculty and staff at the college usually bring their young children into the college and the students are able to practise dealing with small children under the supervision of an experienced and qualified doctor.
But this year, the Covid-19 pandemic meant that social distancing rules made this impossible, so the decision was made to take Cornell Stars online via video conferencing apps.
Dr Amal Khidir, associate professor of paediatrics at WCM-Q, said the Cornell Stars event is a valuable learning activity that allows students to become familiar, and hopefully comfortable, interacting with children and their families. Another goal is to highlight to the students that the field of pediatrics is not always disease-based and healthy children are the majority of patients cared for by paediatricians.
Dr Khidir said, ‘Cancelling Cornell Stars because of Covid was never really an option as the event is so useful for students heading into the full clinical experience in their third year of the medical programme. Instead, we adapted it using online conferencing apps. Students were able to talk to the children and their parents to gather histories and interact with the young ‘patients’ by asking them to perform various tasks.
‘Although they were not able to listen to their hearts or touch them, they were able to practise and refine their observation skills, which are important when they take care of children during their clinical rotations.
‘They learn how to approach and engage children supported by our experienced doctors, who can pass on hints and tips in the context of virtual sessions.’
Dr Khidir added that the event would not have been possible without the support of WCM-Q's ITS department and Office of Curriculum Support, and particularly the doctors from Hamad Medical Corporation, Sidra Medicine and WCM-Q who gave their time and experience to the students: Drs
Madeeha Kamal, Magda Wagdy Yousef, Sohair Elsiddig, Manasik Hassan, Shabina Khan, Samar Magboul, Suzan Gameel, Stella Major and Mohamud Verjee.
She added, ‘We are also very grateful to the 16 families who volunteered their time and particularly the 21 children who were our Cornell Stars.’
Nour al-Masri was one of the WCM-Q staff members to volunteer for Cornell Stars and said it had all gone ‘very smoothly’, possibly because both students and children had become very used to communicating via apps since the coronavirus struck.
Class of 2022 student Jamal al-Ani, one of the 51 students who participated in this event, said it was a really useful learning experience. He said, ‘In the midst of everything taking place across the world right now, the children’s strength and smiles were really refreshing and exciting to be a part of. Seeing them go from shy and timid to confident and interactive was extremely eye opening. It was a really fun and engaging way to practise some of our interviewing skills, while also having fun with the kids.’
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