Participants appreciate the accessible, high-quality educational content, including Irene Blanco, MD, MS, director of the Rheumatology Fellowship Program, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, The Bronx, N.Y.
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“The pandemic has completely disrupted life—and our training programs—in New York,” says Dr. Blanco. “We had to formally suspend our didactics given so many faculty and fellows are deployed to the COVID services. This [program] will help us all get our fellows the education they need in these fraught times. I love that program directors and faculty at other programs can help me ‘take care of my kids’ in this time. It makes my heart swell to be part of this community.”
One of her program’s first-year fellows, Jeanie Lee, MD, shares Dr. Blanco’s enthusiasm for ViRL. “[The sessions] are excellent. I particularly enjoyed the ANCA vasculitis lecture, with the evidence all condensed into one talk. The lectures have all been very clear, easy to follow and engaging. I have nothing but good feedback so far.”
Although the flexibility and convenience of remote learning programs like ViRL are benefits, some aspects of learning are lost, such as the ability to directly engage with rheumatologist peers or the instructor, says Dr. Ursani.
“This can ultimately hinder discussions that may answer a number of questions and encourage critical thinking. From the instructor standpoint, often during a lecture, one can sense the energy in the room and witness the ‘a ha!’ lightbulb moment. With remote learning, I believe this aspect is also lost,” he says.
However, he would like to see the ACR continue ViRL beyond the pandemic period. “Through this accessibility,” Dr. Ursani says, “rheumatology professionals and fellows in training can continue to benefit from experts in their respective fields despite not being in the same program or physical location as they are. It is a great opportunity for them to benefit from this knowledge and ultimately improve their patient care.”
Susan Bernstein is a freelance journalist based in Atlanta.