COVID-19 has created obstacles for students who are looking to pursue an occupation in the medical field by postponing many necessary research, shadowing and volunteering opportunities.
Alpha Epsilon Delta, an organization for Auburn’s pre-health majors, is looking for ways to keep undergraduate students as involved with these experiences as possible.
“COVID-19 is posing a lot of challenges for the pre-medical experience with which our organization covers as well as many other pre-health majors,” said Victoria Jiminez, senior in biomedical sciences and president of AED. “All professional schools require volunteering, shadowing and research experiences. Many of these experiences have been canceled for students this semester due to coronavirus.”
Jiminez explained that these experiences are vital during the application process for professional schools. The applications often ask students what lessons and takeaways they have from their real-world experience, like volunteering, research and shadowing.
Some of the questions ask about how individuals gained experience expressing empathy by serving the community and through their volunteering experiences. Through shadowing, students learn the doctor-patient relationship and how to interact with patients.
“Freshmen, sophomores and juniors are missing these important experiences like research, which is needed so students know how a clinical study works and the academic side of medicine, too,” she said. “It is really limiting our students on this occupational experience.”
One of AED’s goals is to teach pre-med students to be adaptable during the pandemic. The organization aims to get students to think outside the box by finding opportunities to still get their volunteer and research hours completed while staying calm.
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“We are trying to teach our students not to panic because they still have plenty of time,” Jiminez said. “There is no reason to panic because the professional schools are understanding of how this pandemic has changed the accessibility of these experiences.”
AED has two volunteer coordinators as officers of the organization. These officers actively look for volunteer opportunities and they post them on the organization’s website when a new way to get involved with the community is found.
AED hosts its meetings on Zoom every week. During these meetings, speakers from different medical occupations come to share their experiences to students.
Jiminez said sometimes the speakers are admissions deans or representatives to a particular medical, optometry, dentistry or another health professional school.
“The biggest change in the application process this year is that all interviews are online now,” Jiminez said. “It is very different to connect with who you are talking to online versus face-to-face conversation; however, the schools are doing a good job of adapting to the technology while trying to make those connections over Zoom.”
Jiminez also mentioned a lot of professional tests were pushed back while the interview cycles stayed on schedule for the most part.
In addition, AED has been offering mock interviews for students interested in pursuing medical, dental, optometry and other professional schools. This helps with knowing what to have prepared ahead of time, how the application looks and what students need to fill out the application.
“I hope the experience of this pandemic will not intimidate people who are passionate about being future doctors and other healthcare professionals from the medical field,” Jiminez said. “This pandemic is going to change the face of medicine because no one in the current medical field has ever seen anything like this in their career.”
But maybe, the future healthcare professionals will be better prepared.
“I think with the coming years, more policies and more training for incidences like this will be put in place in professional schools,” Jiminez said.
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