Medical students prepare for call to join the front line

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COLUMBIA - Medical students are now searching for ways they can assist with COVID-19, as preparations begin for a possible future of overrun hospitals.

Doctor Albert Hsu, local OBGYN and Fertility Specialist at MU Health Care and president-elect for the Boone County Medical Society, has been working with them on ways to continue helping.

"Are we going to get over run? Well it's hard to say," he said. "But we're getting prepared."

For now, students in Columbia are following American Association of Medical Colleges guidelines saying students are suspended from patient contact for two weeks.

Ramya Ramadas, a third year medical student at MU, is searching for ways her and other students can get involved. 

“Dr. Hsu is leading us in that effort and came up with eight committees," Ramadas said. "We are working with, I think 70-75 volunteers from the medical school."

Those committees will organize medical students for lobbying efforts, community efforts, and a group for positive content. Ramadas said the most important will be getting factual information out for fellow doctors and students.

She said with medical students probably just at home now, this is the best they can do.

“That's what were trying to do - to make ourselves useful in all of this,” she said.

Locally, these AAMC guidelines are still being followed.

But in our neighboring state of Illinois, medical schools are getting requests for student volunteers. These requests have come from outside state Governors, The City of Chicago Emergency Medical Center, and individual hospitals. The reach is for any Illinois medical student volunteers to serve critical care areas.

Even senior medical students at New York University have been offered an early graduation to join the front lines as relief for healthcare providers.  

These calls for help have not yet reached Missouri. But changes are happening quickly with guidelines for students and MU expects changes as guidelines are updated from AAMC.

Dr. Hsu said the preparation and awareness to bring students in is important right now. 

"Part of the point of organizing medical students is to get a volunteer force together so that if it gets really bad, we have someone in reserve,” he said.