American Council of Academic Plastic Surgeons
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COVID-19 and the Yale Response: A Semistructured Interview Study on Plastic Surgery Resident Education and Departmental Adaptation to the Lockdown
Daniel C. Sasson, BA; Henry C. Hsia, MD
Section of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Surgery, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT.

Background: COVID-19-lockdowns tasked residencies with developing creative alternatives to their standard curricula. We aimed to capture Yale Plastic Surgeryís response to understand what specific changes should be continued following the pandemicís conclusion.
Methods: A qualitative, semi-structured interview-based approach was utilized. All departmental members during the 2019-2020 academic year were invited for interviews.
Results: Responses were collected from ten residents, one fellow, and nine attendings between October 2020 and February 2021. Median interview duration was twenty-two minutes. Residents/fellows noted the change as sudden, with 82% stating the increased unstructured time was challenging to process professionally. 78% of attendings noted a drastic increase in their research output. To increase collaboration between programs and fill student time, institutions opened access to their virtual lectures to each other. Students/attendings reflected highly positively on the experience, and 100% felt that analogous collaboration should continue when possible post-pandemic. Despite this, many emphasized the irreplaceability of in-person visiting lecturers and that the two formats should complement each other going forwards. A modified didactic curriculum involving journal clubs was developed to provide residents with educational time previously spent in the operating room. 90% of residents felt this provided more structure to their education than the original curriculum would have. 90% noted a significant benefit to their knowledge-base. 67% of attendings specifically highlighted the benefit of reduced unstructured free time and increased resident educational engagement. Students were invited to join craniofacial pre-surgical facial manipulation planning meetings between attendings and software representatives. 100% of residents felt observing the planning sessions was beneficial, with many explicitly noting it provided a unique perspective into the surgeonís thought process behind planned manipulations to which they usually are not privy. 100% of students felt confident at the time of interview that the lockdown would have no lasting effects on their preparation to become a surgeon. 95% of attending physicians felt the long-term surgical ability of students would not be affected by the lockdown.
Conclusions: COVID-19 forced the experimentation of novel approaches to resident education. Rapid changes enacted at Yale enabled resident training to advance, and documentation of the success of these changes can inform future curriculum design.


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