June 16, 2020

Journal highlights Medical School student government’s role during COVID-19 crisis

Paper outlines curricular changes and challenges experienced by students in the wake of COVID-19, and ways in which student government partnered with administration to offer creative solutions

Academic Medicine: Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges

University of Michigan medical students have earned praise for their significant role in Michigan Medicine’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. How UMMS student government helped to guide these efforts is synthesized in a paper recently published by Academic Medicine: Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges.

In “The Role of Medical Student Government in Responding to COVID-19” (level-1 login required; also linked HERE), Student Council leaders collaborated with Medical School leadership to describe how student governance and administration worked side-by-side during a time of change in medical education.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has sown clinical and administrative chaos at academic health centers throughout the country. As COVID-19-related burdens on the health care system and medical schools piled up, questions from medical students far outweighed the capacity of medical school administrators to respond in an adequate or timely manner, leaving students feeling confused and without clear guidance,” the authors write. “In this Perspective, incoming and outgoing executive leaders of the University of Michigan Medical School Student Council and medical school deans outline the specific ways they were able to bridge the gap between medical students and administrators in a time of crisis.”

Student authors are: then-fourth-year students and 2019-20 Student Council president and vice president, Nadine Ibrahim and Laura Kruger; and then-third-year students and 2020-21 president and vice president Ali Hammoud and Sam Schuiteman. Michelle M. Daniel, M.D., assistant dean for curriculum, and associate professor of emergency medicine and learning health sciences, is senior author on the paper. Rajesh S. Mangrulkar, M.D., associate dean for medical student education, Marguerite S. Roll Professor of Medical Education, and associate professor of internal medicine and learning health sciences, is a co-author.

The paper outlines the curricular changes and challenges experienced by medical students at UMMS in the wake of COVID-19, and the ways in which medical student government partnered during the crisis with medical school administration to offer creative solutions to these problems. To illustrate the value of student government during uncertain times, the authors identify the most pressing problems faced by students at each phase of the curriculum  preclerkship, clerkship, and postclerkship — and explain how Student Council leadership partnered with administrators to find creative solutions to these problems and provide guidance to learners.

“The response to COVID-19 has required rapid decision-making in a time of rapid change and uncertainty, and because of the immense new clinical and administrative burdens, faculty and administrators have not had their usual capacity to gather and respond to the varied opinions within the student body,” they write. “In response to the need for student input, UMMS Student Council stepped up to provide a direct, curated, and manageable pipeline of student information, increasing the capacity of the administration to respond to student concerns by relying on medical student leaders to represent the student experience.”

They conclude the paper reflecting on the role of student government more broadly, identifying three guiding principles of student leadership and how these principles enable effective student representation: 

  • Recognize and embrace that a crisis necessitates changes to the status quo.
  • The demand for — and value of — clear communication increases in times of crisis.
  • The final — and perhaps most vital — principle is the importance of teamwork.

“COVID-19 has presented the greatest challenge to our student body in recent memory. Due in large part to a longstanding relationship of trust with our medical school administrators, the UMMS Student Council has been able to advocate for the needs of students during a period of unprecedented challenge,” they conclude. “It is with great appreciation for our Student Council teammates, whose commitment to the student body is a daily inspiration, that we acknowledge the privilege and responsibility of representation and leadership, which starts and ends with our peers.”