The Role of Medical Students in Responding To COVID-19: Identifying and Addressing Vital Deficiencies
To address the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) that occurred as a result of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), three first-year medical students at Western University developed an initiative to deliver handmade gowns to primary care providers in London, Ontario, Canada. They partnered with the local branch of the Canada Sews organization to sew the gowns, and created a gown order form which was distributed in the community. Following gown delivery by the authors, an optional feedback form was sent to the gown recipients for quality assurance purposes. As of June 10, 2020, 411 gowns were delivered to medical and dental locations, long-term care homes, emergency shelters, and pharmacies. Feedback from the recipients indicated that the gowns were comfortable to wear and consistently useful to primary care practices. The successful execution of the initiative within a month of its inception, the delivery of more than 400 gowns within the subsequent month, and the positive feedback from the gown recipients, indicates that medical students can play an important role during the COVID-19 pandemic, and other periods of crisis, even outside of clinical settings. Specifically, they are able to demonstrate the qualities of leadership, collaboration, and advocacy to spearhead initiatives to fulfill unmet community needs. They are also uniquely situated to help their communities due to factors such as the skills and knowledge they have attained in their academic training. Thus, the ability of medical students to assist primary care providers should be taken into consideration for future pandemics.
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