American Council of Academic Plastic Surgeons

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The First Virtual Surgical Sub-Internship: A Single Institution's Successes and Lessons Learned
Meera Reghunathan MD1, Riley A Dean MD1, Chris M Reid MD1, Amanda A Gosman MD1, Samuel H Lance MD1
1Department of Surgery, Division of Plastic Surgery, UC San Diego, San Diego, CA

Background: With the COVID-19 pandemic, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) followed by the American Council of Academic Plastic Surgery (ACAPS) discouraged in-person away rotations for the 2020-2021 academic year. The authors present a course curriculum and survey feedback for a virtual surgical sub-internship designed to adapt current educational programs to meet the needs of plastic surgery students
Methods: The components of the curriculum include a self-study syllabus, virtual case reviews, virtual suture lab, educational teleconferences, virtual happy hour, participation in research, and mentorship meetings. The 2-week course has approximately 25 hours of conferences and teaching, involving direct interaction with residents and faculty, and approximately 15 hours of self-directed learning (Table 1). A pre- and post- virtual sub-internship survey was administered to 25 and 22 students respectively (the course is ongoing)
Results: Twelve students (46%) do not have a home plastic surgery program, and 12 (46%) of the participants are female. Most participants (60%) heard about the virtual sub-internship via Instagram. More than eighty percent of respondents chose these top 4 goals for the sub-internship: gain mentorship with faculty, evaluate personal fit with the residency program, improve didactic plastic surgery knowledge, and interact with program residents (Table 2). The top 4 objectives that sub-interns identified prior to the sub-internship were the same objectives that were accomplished most successfully per results of the post sub-internship survey (Table 2). One hundred percent of students would participate in the virtual sub-internship again, and nearly twenty percent would choose a virtual sub-internship over an in-person sub-internship. The most common identified strengths of the virtual sub-internship (1) more face-to-face time with attendings, (2) a flexible schedule, and (3) reduced cost
Conclusion: The survey results are promising that the virtual sub-internship can be considered a success. The virtual platform has merit in meeting the goals of mentorship, didactic teaching, and evaluating personality fit. There is work to be done to improve the course components related to patient interaction and the acquisition of technical skills, which will be shaped as we understand HIPAA regulations related to virtual learning and innovate virtual suturing materials.


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