The COVID-19 outbreak resulted in a shift to virtual and remote learning for post-secondary students in Saskatchewan. For those enrolled in the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine, clinical learning and rotations in hospitals and clinics were also halted—meaning that learners could no longer connect with patients or peers in quite the same way.
With support from college administration, 134 medical students organized to put their skills to use as volunteers alongside the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s public health units in Saskatoon and Regina. Once trained, students relayed negative COVID-19 tests, educated the public on physical distancing protocols, assisted in contact tracing and completed symptom tracking records for positive cases.
Among that group was second-year student Sehjal Bhargava. “With the shift to online classes, I think we were all feeling quite restless, so assisting with jobs that didn't require an MD or a residency was something we were more than happy to do,” she said.
Besides the incredible learning experience, Bhargava and the other volunteers saw first-hand the amount of work that public health officials put into the provincial response.
“By volunteering, we were given a small sense of purpose, and a lot of real life exposure to what a day in the world of public health in a pandemic looks like.”
Medical student Sehjal Bhargava, MS2 (top right) and colleagues Kate Morrison, MS3 (top left), Jessica Froehlich, MS2 (bottom left) and Amira Mufta, MS1 (bottom right) served as volunteer coordinators with the SHA's public health units. (Not pictured, Samuel Simonson, MS3)