The COVID 19 Pandemic caused both disruption and innovation in medical schools. We highlight an innovative elective that occurred because of the pandemic. Students in training to become health professionals wanted to understand the new COVID Vaccines. Two faculty members, one from the School of Medicine and one from the Collage of Pharmacy, stated a weekly virtual elective seminar called COVAX Scholars to provide training on COVID 19 vaccines starting in November of 2020. Students quickly became involved in the leadership of this program and many extra-curricular activities evolved from this program.
Students researched and gave presentations on subjects of interest to the COVAX Scholars group. Outside speakers were invited to present on topics of interest that required a background in specific fields. Topics ranged from science-based topics such as vaccine mechanisms to social topics such as vaccine equity. COVAX scholars were involved in disturbing vaccines or presenting to others about these new vaccines.
Students reported feeling empowered by learning about vaccines and using their knowledge in practical ways. Despite being an extra-curricular project, attendance was high at the COVAX Scholars’ meetings and for many projects developed by this group. Pharmacy and Medical Students developed a new respect for each other and worked together to research, plan and carry out community-based projects and presentations.
This project demonstrates that, in the right circumstances, an elective course can empower students to learn and serve their communities in an interdisciplinary approach. Although extracurricular activities and journal clubs are common, this was unique in several ways: it was a response to a crisis, it was interdisciplinary, and students become the leaders and teachers and as a result, students become empowered to share their knowledge and expertise. For many students it represented a step towards professional identity formation.
Newman, Ashley; Amy Bachyrycz; and Samantha Moore. "COVAX Scholars: Seminars for Medical and Pharmacy Students." (2022). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/hsc_ed_day/120