American Council of Academic Plastic Surgeons

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Innovation in Medical Education: The Virtual Sub-Internship in Plastic Surgery
Matthew D. Freeman, MD1; Francis Graziano, MD1; Mahmood Al Bayati2; Amanda Awad3; Sammy Othman4; Whitney Moss5; Olivier Noel, PhD6; Kitae Park7; Ishani Premaratne8; Peter J. Taub, MD, MS1
1Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, USA, 2University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL, USA, 3Albany Medical College, Albany, NY, USA, 4Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, USA, 5University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA, 6Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, PA, USA, 7New York Medical College, Valhalla, New York, USA, 8Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY, USA

Background: The plastic surgery sub-internship is frequently viewed by both residency programs and applicants as the most influential factor in determining a rank order list. Due to COVID-19, in-person sub-internships across the United States were canceled, leaving students and programs in uncharted territory.
Methods: The integrated Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery program at our institution designed and implemented a month-long virtual sub-internship. The program was advertised using Facebook and Instagram accounts. Students were enrolled between July and October 2020 on a first come, first serve basis. Lectures were given on the Zoom platform and included weekly didactics, morbidity and mortality conference, grand rounds, informal discussions with residents, and lectures by residents and/or faculty dedicated specifically to the students. Pre and post experience questionnaires were distributed.
Results: Seven to nine students were enrolled per month for a total of 34 students. 28 medical schools were represented. Students participated in an average of 4 hours of Zoom lectures per week. Data collection is ongoing, but 24 pre-experience questionnaires were completed and 18 post questionnaires were completed. Sub-intern opinions prior to the experience were lukewarm with a significant improvement in responses after the experience. 0% of students felt they knew “a great deal” about the program prior to the experience, with 83% feeling that way afterwards. While only 54% expected to gain an understanding of our residency culture prior to the experience, 100% of students reported that they knew “a great deal” about the culture and residency life at our institution. 100% felt that the lectures were educational and level-appropriate.
Conclusion: The virtual sub-internship provided students with a valuable learning experience and gave participants a good understanding of life at the program. The COVID-19 pandemic may push programs to innovate in virtual methods for sub-internships and interviews going forward, significantly reducing financial burdens for interested students. Plans to continue a virtual sub-internship may provide an alternative and far less costly means for students to engage with residency programs going forward.


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