Ophthalmology Education in COVID-19: A Remote Elective for Medical Students

J Acad Ophthalmol. 2020 Jul;12(2):e165-e170. doi: 10.1055/s-0040-1716695. Epub 2020 Oct 10.


Background: The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has created obstacles for medical student education, as clinical rotations were temporarily halted. Recent literature shows online electives may provide an alternative learning platform. We developed a tele-ophthalmology student elective for rising third-year (MS3) and fourth-year (MS4) medical students to continue teaching and exposure to the field.

Methods: A 4-week remote elective was approved by Emory University School of Medicine and offered between April 18, 2020 to May 15, 2020 for rising MS3 and MS4 students. The curriculum consisted of online self-study materials, student presentations, chart review assignments, case-based discussions with faculty, and telehealth experiences. All students were surveyed and tested with questions from USMLE World (UWorld) test bank at the end of the course.

Results: A total of 18 students enrolled, with 66.7% MS3 and 33.3% MS4 participance. The mean rating of fulfillment of course learning objectives was 8.1/10 (range, 6.7-8.8), with mean ratings of 8.2 for MS3s and 7.7 for MS4s. There was a significant increase in self-reported knowledge in ophthalmology, with an increase from 4.6 to 8.1 for MS3s (p=0.002) and 6.7 to 8.0 for MS4s (p=0.04). Students also reported higher interest in the field, with an increase from 4.9 to 7.8 for MS3s (p=0.01) and 7.5 to 8.7 for MS4s (p=0.1). The students performed significantly higher on the post-course test (94.8%) than UWorld question bank users (74.1%) (p<0.001).

Conclusion: Our novel ophthalmology elective significantly enhanced self-reported medical student knowledge and interest in the field during a crisis that required transition to remote learning. Further study of student telehealth experience and objective assessment is needed to improve online learning in ophthalmology.