Medical students deploy across Colorado to help combat coronavirus

Coronavirus

DENVER (KDVR) — Medical students are deploying to hospitals, homeless shelters, community centers and other facilities around the state to assist in the fight against coronavirus.

“(I’m) impressed and humbled by the people that have responded. I think that it really shows the dedication of our future health professionals,” Halea Meese, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Colorado School of Medicine said.

Meese and another student, Jake Fox, helped organize hundreds of volunteers after they received a call from the governor’s office asking students to assist with triaging hotline phone calls from people with questions about COVID-19.

“Certainly, the response has blossomed from there,” Fox said. “We got numerous requests from a variety of different hospitals in Denver and Colorado Springs to help them in a variety of different support roles.”

According to Fox, medical students are now helping to screen hospital visitors, safeguarding protective equipment, and assisting with hospital-centered phone calls. The requests for students to help with different tasks are changing frequently.

“I’m truly inspired by everyone’s response and willingness to step up and be leaders during this time of uncertainty,” Fox said of his fellow medical students.

“The need is great, and the need is going to be greater, and I think we are an untapped resource,” Loree Thornton, a medical student who is leading the effort in Colorado Springs, said. 

“We are intimately in contact with every health system down here,” she said. “We are finding we actually have a lot of opportunity to be useful down here.”

For many medical students, the past week has been a whirlwind. Coronavirus canceled some students’ elective clinical rotations and pulled others out of a traditional classroom setting.  A planned celebration for “Match Day,” a day in which fourth-year medical students learn where they will spend the next several years completing a residency program, was also changed to a virtual event due to fears over the spread of the illness.

“It’s a huge celebration,” Thornton said, who was selected to speak at the ceremony. “The reality kind of just set in as everything slowly closed down, and we realized that we had a higher purpose, a higher calling.”

“A lot of doctors I’ve worked with say there’s three really memorable days in medical school. The first is when you first see your cadaver your first year in medical school, and then the second one is your Match Day, and the third one is your commencement, your graduation. And we’ve just had those second two kind of taken away from us,” Fox said. “I think that’s kind distressing and disheartening for a lot of people, but for me that’s been superseded by the feeling I get when I see all my classmates standing up to meet this moment.”

Students from many different departments have come together including nursing students, physical therapists, and students in the school of pharmacy, Meese said.

“(We’re) trying to get everyone to work together as one and bring our different skills to the table to be able to respond to the crisis that we find ourselves in,” she said.

Meese said what initially started as a “nerve-racking” week is now an exciting experience. “It’s transformed into excitement over being able to have all of our students helping out and being able to be useful at a time when we feel our health system and our community really needs us.”

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