The coronavirus pandemic has affected all aspects of our lives, and has reached every corner of the world. At the Wake Forest University Eye Center, our leadership and residents have risen to the challenge, and have made the most of this difficult situation. In these stormy seas, we took several steps to better care for our fellow crew members.
- Divided our residents into 3 groups of 4, sequestering them to decrease exposure risk and minimize the impact of potential quarantine.
- Created a treasure trove of online educational material for residents on the "home team" rotation.
- Increased variety and quality of our lectures through WebEx and Zoom platforms.
- Continued and increased the quality of research projects and presentations.
As our hospital restarted elective surgeries, we were quick to be sure that residents continued their busy experiences in the operating room. Fortunately, our surgical volumes are high, so the hiatus in elective surgeries has not significantly affected our resident surgical experience. For example, this past academic year, our senior residents still averaged 218 cataract surgeries each (range 183 to 270) as primary surgeon, despite the COVID-19 induced restrictions on elective surgery. We had no hesitation whatsoever that our 2020 graduates had the experience and skills to practice independently and enter fellowship and private practice positions.
As a program director, I have been very proud of our residents and our leadership, who have taken this unusual and difficult situation and built a robust system to allow experience and education to continue despite isolation and quarantine. We will never forget the onset of this pandemic and the realization that everything that we thought we knew about educating residents had to change overnight.
Our virtual meeting “ultimate test” as a program came June 5th, when we had our resident/fellow graduation online. We were able to virtually host hundreds from the eye center family in attendance, with a program of video, PowerPoint, and platform presentation to honor (and roast!) our graduates.
I urge all applying medical students to look particularly at how each program has responded to the COVID-19 crisis, as it will give you a gauge of the dedication and depth of the training program, which are key ingredients for a successful residency.