The Virtual Visiting Professor: Temporary Form of COVID-19 Social Distancing or Potential Paradigm Shift?
Ravinder Bamba, MD, Phu C. Tran, MD, Mary E. Lester, MD, William A. Wooden, MD, Gayle M. Gordillo, MD, Ivan Hadad, MD*, Aladdin H. Hassanein, MD, MMSc*
Division of Plastic Surgery Indiana University School of Medicine Indianapolis, IN
Introduction: The visiting professor is an important tradition in plastic and reconstructive surgery. Social distancing because of COVID-19 altered standard in-person meetings including visiting professors. Our institution designed a virtual visiting professor program in attempt to capture characteristics of in-person visiting professors including promoting relationships between the visiting teacher and residents/home faculty and providing the opportunity for the visiting lecturer to share their expert knowledge outside their home institution. The purpose of this study was to examine the efficacy of our Virtual Visiting Professors (VVP) program and compare the costs to in-person lectures.
Methods: A standard 1-hour format for the Visiting Virtual Professor (VVP) consisted of (1) introduction by home faculty, (2) senior/chief residents introducing themselves to the VVP, (3) an open interactive discussion about the professorís career/life, and (4) a formal topic lecture. VVPs and residents were surveyed after the lectures. Cost analysis was performed comparing previous visiting professor budgets and the VVP cost.
Results: Seven visiting professors gave virtual lectures over a 21-day timespan during the peak of COVID-19 social distancing in 2020. Most visiting professors (85.7%) found the virtual visiting professor very convenient and 85.7% of VVP would like to continue the virtual visiting professor lectures after the COVID-19 pandemic. The residents found the lectures educational (94.1%, 16/17). Most of the residents either preferred virtual visiting professors (29.4%) or had no preference between virtual and in-person options. The average cost of an in-person visiting professor in the 2018 academic year was $1780 per visitor compared to $15 for the virtual lecture (p<0.001).
Conclusion: Learners and visiting faculty found the VVP program to be effective in achieving the goals of in-person visiting professors. This study has also demonstrated the potential of cost savings from a virtual visiting professor and increasing the number of personal lectures. These results suggest that institutions should consider using a similar format for virtual visiting professors to augment traditional visiting professor lectures post-COVID 19.
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