Unable to connect with rheumatology fellows and patients in person, Anisha Dua, MD, MPH, and a team of rheumatologists have worked quickly to find new ways to communicate and share resources. Dr. Dua directs rheumatology medical education and the fellowship training program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NMH), Chicago. She spoke with The Rheumatologist about how the pandemic is affecting her and her practice.
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Q: How is your teaching being affected by COVID-19?
This is a question of significant importance to me. Although many meetings and lectures have become virtual, we no longer have residents or students rotating on rheumatology. Our fellows’ clinics are being carried out remotely through conference calls with the fellow, attending and patient. Of course, we are limited in our ability to execute diagnostic workups for our patients or use our physical exams to aid in the assessment of our patients.
I co-direct the musculoskeletal module for first-year medical students, and this [class] was quickly transitioned to live-streamed videos. The technology learning curve has been steep, and we are trying to maintain our mission to our trainees to educate them amid this chaos.
In response to such technological challenges, one of my fellows, Sarah Fantus, brought up the idea of combining forces and working with other programs to deliver didactic lectures in rheumatology. I reached out to the Chicago area programs and a few program directors at other institutions to gauge interest in trying to pool resources and expertise to teach our fellows. This [idea] picked up considerable momentum, and within a week, the Virtual Rheumatology Learning (ViRL) collaborative officially launched on April 7. This dedication to education and demonstration of leadership nationally is awe inspiring and exemplifies the collaborative community I am honored to be a part of.
Q: How are you and your staff adapting to the sudden changes brought about by the pandemic?
This [time] has been quite a test of our ability to adapt and mobilize. As a rheumatology community here at Northwestern, we are doing a great job working together efficiently to ensure the safety of our patients, our staff, our colleagues and ourselves. Since the pandemic started, many significant changes have occurred to our workflow and the way we deliver care.