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New School of Medicine students share experience in first weeks of hybrid learning

Students in the School of Medicine Class of 2024 are connecting with their peers in virtual and in-person environments as they enter their second week at UMass Medical School, where a hybrid curriculum is underway due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The hybrid-style curriculum is definitely different than what we all expected, but it allows us to put our minds together and connect in ways we never have,” said Sara Wang, SOM ’24, who is enrolled in the Population-based Urban and Rural Community Health (PURCH) program. “We are also seeing how hard everyone is working behind the scenes, making sure all of us feel involved and taken care of.”

Wang was born in Beijing and moved with her family to Newton. Her mother is an endocrinologist who influenced Wang and exposed her to science and medicine at an early age.

“I worked at Mass General doing community health work prior to matriculating at UMMS, so I had witnessed first-hand the physician’s role in- and outside of the clinic,” she said. “From my first interaction with folks here, everyone seemed so happy and enthusiastic to be here,” Wang said.

“It’s daunting coming into the medical field with so much unknown, especially when you cannot meet your peers or leaders in person right away,” said Naaz Daneshvar, SOM ’24. “I went to the University of Virginia and graduated this year, so I was certainly used to Zoom classes and distance by the time our first day came around.”

In their first week, students focused on getting to know one another within their learning communities, Doctoring and Clinical Skills groups, and mentor anatomy groups. The majority of the meetings are on Zoom; however, small group rotations were held in person for students to discuss topics including social justice, the pandemic and new transitions.

“I’ve been in constant communication with my anatomy group online, and we’ve already bonded so closely,” said Daneshvar. “We’re already developing a lot of activities that will allow us to stay engaged with one another, and ease that sense of togetherness when we’re apart. I cannot wait for the rest of the year and eventually meet my classmates face to face.”

Students must be tested for COVID-19 every week before they come to campus for small group meetings or coursework that incorporates core teaching and longitudinal faculty.

“I cannot help but think of how awesome it is to be at a school that keeps our education in mind, but also our safety,” said Daneshvar. “We can still make it personal while keeping in mind each other’s wellbeing.”

“I was really driven to this interconnected and interprofessional campus. We can engage with the other schools, large groups in our learning communities and small groups, which is more intimate,” said Stewart Maxfield. He came to UMMS from Salt Lake City, Utah. An aspiring educator and physician, Maxfield said he appreciates the ways he can interact with his classmates in an online environment.

“I hope to become a mentor someday,” he said. “In just this week, our curriculum has allowed us to expand our conversations beyond the basics, diving deeper into topics that are relevant to what we are experiencing in the world. We have a constant connection between students and faculty. Although it’s challenging being apart, I think we are making the best of this situation by applying these lessons to our education.”