As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, our team Bread & Olives from The George Washington University in Washington, DC was unable to participate in a global health trip this year. While we wait for the opportunity to put into action the plan outlined in our 2020 AMA Global Health Challenge submission, we reflect on our experiences during the pandemic thus far, which have reinforced the importance of global health and communication.

Team Captain Chapman Wei is currently completing his final year of medical school at The George Washington University after finishing a year-long dermatology research fellowship. The pandemic had not greatly impacted his medical school education due to GW’s efforts towards social distancing and careful screening and monitoring. While clinical rotation learning and team dynamics have remained relatively unchanged, patient visits have been divided between virtual and in-person visits to promote social distancing and keep safety in mind. Similarly, didactic education is now virtual. During his dermatology rotation, Chapman saw a wide array dermatoses representative of DC’s diverse population. Overall, this experience broadened his knowledge on dermatoses in a variety of different skin tones and reinforced the need for better resources specifically with respect to darker skin, in the field of dermatology.

Zahra Aligabi is currently completing her final year of graduate school at The George Washington University. Despite COVID’s restrictions and her now virtual schooling, her passion to help people remains strong and was only fortified during these trying times. Zahra has continued to find time to dedicate her time to tutoring refugees virtually through Paper Airplanes, while also volunteering with her local mosques in ensuring the various needs of her community members are met during this pandemic. Further, she hopes to resume her local volunteering efforts in and outside of the clinical setting once it is safe to do so again.

Fredrick Martyn is currently a PGY1 family medicine resident at Western University in Ontario, Canada. One challenge he experienced as a new resident during the pandemic was effective patient communication while constantly being masked.  While masks are imperative for reducing infection risk, he initially felt they made it difficult to connect with his patients; his face was often unrecognizable to patients and no longer could he provide a reassuring smile or sympathetic frown. In time however, he found that concealment behind a mask made him more aware of the importance of other forms of non-facial communication, including voice, posture, hand movements, eye contact and relative positioning to the patient. By wearing a mask, he was able to subsequently improve himself in these often overlooked aspects of communication which help build stronger patient-doctor relationships. He hopes to continue with these communication practices even after the masks come off.

Refka Al-Beyati is currently a PGY2 internal medicine resident at University of California, Los Angeles and Liqi Shu currently is a PGY2 neurology resident at Brown University. Going into their second years of residency, they both feel more comfortable and confident managing patients than at the start of their residency. Both residents are still on the front lines taking care of COVID-19 patients, as well as non-COVID-19 patients. They are also excited to see many of their COVID-19 patients recovering as the management of COVID-19 was not well-studied or well-reported at the beginning of this pandemic. They find this experience very fulfilling to be actively learning how to better manage patients with COVID-19 day by day with both patient care and keeping up to date with the latest research and guidelines.

We hope that our readers enjoyed reading our reflection about the impact COVID-19 has had with our education and patient management as trainees. More posts to follow!