Most fourth-year students already had accumulated enough clinical hours to obtain accreditation. But now a decision needs to be made soon to make sure new fourth- and third-year students don’t fall behind. While the state doesn’t have a contingency plan, the state’s other three medical schools do.
Having fulfilled all third-year hours by juggling their clinical schedules to late spring, both Rutgers medical schools will send their students to other states if need be, despite being connected to the state’s largest health system, RWJBarnabas Health, said Dr. Robert Johnson, dean of both schools.
Should the second wave not require relocation, Johnson said that RWJBarnabas will have no problem accommodating the students not only because the associated health system has more than the 130 locations, including University Hospital in Newark and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, but because the medical school runs the intern and residency programs in those teaching hospitals, Johnson said.
But there may be other potential problems on the horizon.
“The other issue is are we going to have enough PPE equipment, respirators, and other things?” Johnson continued. “When it all started, we weren’t clear what we needed as far as supplies. At hospitals that I’m on the board of, we’re in pretty good shape to control that, and we do have good plans for a second wave. More importantly, we have really good control of this at the state level, where the governor and the health commissioner are making decisions to protect us from having a second wave.
“I’m impressed with what they’re doing. Nobody likes it. Nobody likes not going to the gym or eating in a parking lot, but I’m pretty confident as I can be that the plans we’ve made will protect us while maintaining the integrity of medical education without many problems.”
“The important thing for all of us is to be in control of the second wave,” Johnson said. “Most of that coordination comes from the state health department and the governor. The one other thing is that we need better federal planning. That needs to be in better shape. That’s not where it needs to be.”
And it may be a continuing problem in the future.
“My discipline is infectious disease. I project we are going to see more of this within our lifetime,” Reboli said. “The last large pandemic was in 1918. We’ve gone 100 years without a pandemic. We had a minor one in 2008, 2009. I think we are going to see more large pandemics. People are traveling.
“We are very much global citizens. We’re facing global warming, interfacing with animals at a higher rate than we ever did before. If we’re going to get more pandemics, who is going to respond to the next one if we don’t keep our pipeline of medical students progressing through their medical education and then on to the practice of medicine?”