The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the neurosurgery community to utilize new technologies to create and maintain connections. With social distancing guidelines in place, much attention has turned to the virtual space to accomplish this. At the University of Miami, we have trialed several virtual initiatives to connect with the neurosurgery community across the country and the world — from medical students interested in our residency training program to attending neurosurgeons interested in hearing from the world-leading experts in various neurosurgical subspecialties. We report the lessons we have learned during these unprecedented and challenging times.

Virtual Sub-Internship

Typically, sub-internships represent the culmination of medical school studies where interested final year medical students rotate in our department to gauge interest in both neurosurgery and our residency program. However, given concerns for student safety with travel, the various travel restrictions in place, and differing hospital policies on rotating medical students, the Society of Neurosurgical Surgeons opted for a unified policy for programs and students to afford all applicants the same opportunities. In 2020, away sub-internships were eliminated, and the University of Miami created a 1-day virtual sub-internship. In these, attendees were exposed to different subspecialties via attending presentations, resident life via resident presentations and applying to our program via a question and answer session with the program director, Ricardo J. Komotar, MD, FAANS, FACS. The lessons we learned are:

  • We can host more attendees than we would be able to with in-person sub-internships;
  • Compared to before, attendees of the virtual sub-internship are objectively more familiar with the residency program, faculty, residents and daily life within the program; and
  • All prospective attendees agreed that a virtual sub-internship before in-person sub-internship applications would be of great use after the pandemic.

The Resident Hour

A challenge facing medical students learning about our residency program is getting to know the current residents when they cannot rotate in the department. Given how vital inter-resident personality fit is when planning applications, we sought to increase the exposure of our residents by introducing a monthly resident-run virtual initiative called The Resident Hour. In it, we had residents present on various neurosurgery- and residency-related topics, but in a more conversational manner. The lessons we learned here are:

  • There is interest in hearing from neurosurgery residents from both within the U.S. and overseas;
  • Interactive sessions that encourage conversations greatly facilitates getting to know residents; and
  • Residents enjoy the opportunity to share with the neurosurgery community their knowledge and opinions.

Online Symposia

In the current pandemic, multiple neurosurgical conferences have been canceled. Without these, the neurosurgery community has lost exposure to experts in the field and the most up-to-date didactics. In response, our department has been able to organize our lecture series utilizing virtual symposia, nicknamed Zoomposiums. In it, we can bring in world-renowned experts virtually to discuss in real-time many pertinent and contemporary topics — including brain tumors via the Miami Global Brain Tumor Symposium organized by Michael E. Ivan, MD, FAANS, and Cerebrovascular and Skull Base Symposium organized by Jacques J. Morcos, MD, FAANS, FACS. Attendance is free and open to anyone interested, and all of the recordings (including The Resident Hour) are available on YouTube. From these symposia, we learned:

  • Virtual symposia increase the breadth of neurosurgical experts’ ability to present their work, as well as the neurosurgery community able to attend;
  • There is great interest in these symposiums across the world, with attendees from over 50 countries registering for each symposium; and
  • Being able to store these symposia online, at no cost, dramatically increases the longevity and reach of their impact.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the neurosurgery community to innovate new ways to become and stay connected. Here in the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Miami, we have embraced virtual technology and created initiatives to increase exposure and maintain a connection to our program, our residents and our expertise. We have learned several lessons with the overarching goal of increased accessibility at the forefront of our experience. We can implement these virtual endeavors within the neurosurgery community to become more connected than ever.

Editor’s Note: We hope that you will share what you learn from our posts. We invite you to be part of the conversation on Twitter by following @Neurosurgery and using the hashtags #Match2021 and #NeurosurgeryMatch.

Victor M. Lu, MD, PhD
University of Miami School of Medicine
Miami, Fla.

 

 

Ingrid Menendez
University of Miami School of Medicine
Miami, Fla.

 

 

Ricardo J. Komotar, MD, FAANS, FACS
University of Miami School of Medicine
Miami, Fla.

Leave a Reply