How I Teach: Navigating the COVID Classroom

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ASH Clinical News


American Society of Hematology


As the COVID-19 pandemic increased rapidly in the U.S. in March and April 2020, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) released guidance strongly supporting medical school closings. On April 14, it advised that “medical schools in locales with significant, active current, or anticipated COVID-19 community spread, and/or limited availability of personal protective equipment, and/or limited availability of COVID-19 testing [should] pause all medical student participation in activities that involve direct patient contact.”1

The AAMC made clear, however, that decisions should be made on a school-by-school basis, urging “medical schools, with their clinical partners’ knowledge and input, [to] carefully evaluate their local situation on a regular basis to make determinations about their medical students’ participation in direct patient contact activities.”

At the time, nearly every medical school fell into at least one of the recommended closing categories outlined in the April 14 notice, but 4 months later, the organization updated its guidance, acknowledging a better understanding of COVID-19 and the impact of public health measures to limit its spread.

“Medical students are the essential, emerging physician workforce,” the AAMC wrote. “The clinical education of our medical students – including their involvement in direct patient contact activities (which may involve patients with and those without known or suspected COVID-19) – must continue, with appropriate attention to safety.”2 The organization’s revised guidance stressed the importance of planning for adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), conducting sufficient testing and monitoring, and training students in safety precautions specifically related to COVID-19.

Medical schools are now facing a dilemma: How can they continue to teach students while maintaining their safety, and the safety of the patients that the students encounter?

To learn more about how academic medical centers are adapting to “the new normal,” ASH Clinical News spoke with medical educators Ariela Marshall, MD; Navneet Majhail, MD; and Marc Kahn, MD, MBA, about the challenges and unexpected opportunities of training the future hematology/oncology workforce during a pandemic.

Controlled Subject

COVID-19 (Disease); Medical education; Medical personnel--Training of


Medical Education




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