COVID-19 an opportunity to train future doctors

MUSCAT: As the challenges from the coronavirus outbreak continue, the prime focus now is providing maximum healthcare for patients and communities.

At the same time, experts say there are lessons from the pandemic that need to be recorded, reviewed and included in the medical educational curricula.

“The challenges that the world facing today should be linked to medical education and develop the curricula in line with the developments and lessons from the current pandemic,” said Dr Ahmed al Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean.

Attending a webinar organised by the Oman Medical Specialty Board, he said that not much is known regarding the long-lasting impact of COVID-19 on medical education, and, “it is therefore necessary to record and study the full impact from the pandemic”.

According to him, the COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted medical education and, as a result, it requires intense and prompt action from medical educators in the implementation of e-learning, which will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the environment in which future medical students learn.

E-learning platforms are now increasingly utilised by medical schools around the world and comprise adaptive tutorials, audiovisual clips and virtual models.

“The need to prepare future physicians has never been as focused as it is now in the setting of a global emergency. The profound effects of coronavirus disease may forever change how future physicians are educated,” Dr Al Mandhari said.

He insisted that there is an urgent need to include medical education in pre-university curricula and during university studies, “to ensure awareness and promote community health as there is a gap between medical education in educational institutions and clinical practices in health institutions”.

The WHO official said that there are many challenges facing the health system due to the pandemic, including the decline in providing health services that are not directly related to the virus but due to other reasons.

The community’s fear of visiting health institutions to receive treatment, and the lack of preparedness of the health system at the beginning of the pandemic added to the challenges, he said.

According to him, some religious practices and societal customs in the region contributed to the increase in the spread of the pandemic, saying, “we must prepare physicians and health practitioners with scientific knowledge in this field so that they are ready to face them if they occur in the future”.

He said that there is dearth of communication with regard to risks and their management in educational curricula, pointing out that health workers are currently facing increased work pressure, exposure to risks, and psychological and physical pressures.

“They also face violent reactions from patients who are affected by the pandemic,” he said, insisting on the need to include subjects and methods to deal with such pressures in medical education curricula.