Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Dr. Gilbert’s Tips for Online Learning

Timothy Gilbert, Ed.D., assistant dean of accreditation and planning at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, recently facilitated a Wellness Chat with USA medical students via Zoom. He provided some tips for getting the most out of online instruction.

“Managing our own self-discipline is the single biggest obstacle to success online,” Gilbert said. “Simply saying, ‘today I’m going to study’ is frequently not enough. To combat that lack of time management, you need a schedule.”

Create a schedule.
  • Use a calendar model (right) or checkbox model (above). 
  • Hard to stick to? Add more detail. 
  • Be realistic and schedule breaks. 
Know and manage your distractions.
  • Electronics/social media 
  • Friends and family
  • Refrigerator (plan your meals and snacks)
Manage your environment.
  • Keep your study space – physical and virtual – well organized. 
  • Ensure you have reliable connectivity, especially if you are planning to change your physical location. 
  • Back up often. 
  • Use reliable external resources that you know work. Ensure your subscriptions are up to date. Avoid using too many.
Keep in contact.
  • Zoom is available for free.
  • E-study buddy. Can be really helpful if you are a procrastinator.
  • Study/review groups – be cautious.
  • Be intentional with contact/questions. No opportunity for casual encounters, so make your point clear.
  • Pay attention to stated objectives. 
Prepare for tests.
  • Add links to resources. 
  • Add good notes you have made.
  • Identify slides that are likely question targets.
Stay well.
  • Stay on a regular cycle.
  • Shoot for 7 hours.
  • Aim for 60-90 minutes/day.
  • Participate in online exercise sessions.
  • Get outside. 
  • Be creative.
  • Remember, bad habits come easy.
  • Consider online meal kits.
  • Drink lots of water.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Scientific presentations move online for students

Yelitza Rodriguez, a Ph.D. student in biochemistry and 
molecular biology, was the first to present her research 
on the Zoom platform.
Most Wednesdays, the Cell and Molecular Biology Journal Club meets in a second-floor conference room at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine. The club gives graduate students studying basic sciences an opportunity to present research they've had a hand in conducting.
Typically, students stand at a podium with a large screen behind them, as they introduce and explain the topic. More than a dozen other students and faculty attend the meetings. At the end, the audience has an opportunity to ask questions of the students. 
Because all of USA’s classes have been moved online following the COVID-19 outbreak, the journal club is holding lectures virtually through the Zoom platform.
“Journal club presentations help students prepare for future public presentations of research or any other scientific topic during their careers in academia or industry-related fields,” said Lyudmila Rachek, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology at the USA College of Medicine.
“It helps students to keep up with current findings, increase their scientific literacy, exercise critical thinking skills, and improve their presentation and debate abilities. All of this will be imperative in their transition to future careers.”
The first Zoom presenter was Yelitza Rodriguez, a Ph.D. student based in the medical school’s biochemistry and molecular biology department.
While the questions and answers portion of the presentation has moved online, it remains a valuable part of the presentation: “It increases student confidence and debate abilities,” Rachek said. “Also, as I always say to students, it develops and improves their abilities to start and maintain a scientific discussion.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Virtual dance party uplifts medical students and faculty

Dr. Fun hosted a dance party to boost the heart rates and spirits of medical students.

"Being active isn't only good for your heart  it's a mood-lifter, too," said Lynn Batten, M.D., aka Dr. Fun. "It's important to get away from the computer or social media for a while every day (unless you're Zoom-dancing with friends!) and do something that gets that heart rate up and makes you sweat."

Inspired by Zoom's gallery view, Batten, associate professor of pediatrics, internal medicine, and physiology and cell biology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, used the video conferencing platform to host the online dance party. Dancing to Sam Hunt's "House Party," medical students, deans, faculty and staff joined the party with their families, housemates and pets.

While maintaining physical distance, Batten encourages students to stay connected to one another in other ways.

"I think it can be very lonely to be isolated at home without that everyday connection to others we've been used to," she said. "It actually took me by surprise how happy it made ME to see all the students' faces the first time we did a Zoom class with 68 first-year medical students attending!"

Watch Dr. Fun's House Party on YouTube.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Maintaining mental health and wellness during quarantine

Students at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine are adjusting to online learning, coming to terms with canceled events and plans, and dealing with the overall state of uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time of social distancing, it’s especially important to take care of one’s mental health and well-being.

With that goal in mind, Marjorie Scaffa, Ph.D., health and wellness counselor at the USA College of Medicine, is providing virtual counseling online in 15-, 30-, or 60-minute time blocks. Call (251) 460-7051 or email mscaffa@southalabama.edu to make an appointment.

In addition, Scaffa will be hosting weekly virtual Wellness Chats on Thursdays at 4 p.m. The format will be a brief presentation and then time for discussion and questions. Medical students will receive a Zoom invitation no later than the morning of the event.

The first chat is scheduled for April 2. Timothy Gilbert, Ed.D., assistant dean of accreditation and planning at the USA College of Medicine, will talk about how to get the most out of online learning. During the second chat on April 9, Scaffa will talk about maintaining well-being during quarantine.

Scaffa provided the following tips for mental health during quarantine.

What to do every day:

  • Get some sunlight. Go outside from time to time. When inside your home, be sure to open shades, curtains, etc.
  • Play upbeat music during the day and dance like no one is watching.
  • Shower and wear clean clothes. You will feel more awake and ready for the day.
  • Drink lots of water. Use a fancy glass to make it more fun.
  • Stay connected. Contact at least one friend or family member each day.
  • Get moving. Take a walk or a bike ride.
  • Seek a higher purpose through yoga, meditation, prayer, and/or reading religious texts or inspirational material.

The USA Counseling and Testing Center has a webpage on mental health services and resources for students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit https://www.southalabama.edu/departments/counseling/coronavirus.html.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Technology and creativity allow medical students to continue education

William Richards, M.D., professor and chair of surgery, gives a team-based learning exercise to third-year surgery clerkship students online using the Zoom platform. 
In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, classes at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine have transitioned to an online learning format. One example is the use of technology by faculty and third-year clerkship students as they continue an important progression in their medical school education.

"Our goal, while online, is to continue to deliver a high-quality educational experience to provide students the medical knowledge necessary to care for patients when they are able to resume clinical activity," said T.J. Hundley, M.D., associate dean of medical education at the USA College of Medicine.

During the third year of medical school, USA medical students participate in clerkships in family medicine, internal medicine, neurology, OB-GYN, pediatrics, psychiatry and surgery. The clerkships form the foundation of the third year of medical school in which medical students use knowledge gained from their preclinical years and begin to apply it in the real world with real patients, under the direction of resident and attending physicians. The goal is to form them into competent physicians able to function in the real world and ready to move on to residency.

The surgical clerkship students recently received their first team-based learning (TBL) exercise from William Richards, M.D., F.A.C.S., professor and chair of surgery, through the Zoom online conferencing application. TBL involves a lecture and then an interactive case study based on a clinical scenario, according to John Hunter, M.D., F.A.C.S., assistant professor of surgery, who is co-director the surgery clerkship along with Linda Ding, M.D., F.A.C.S., assistant professor of surgery.

Typically, these students would spend the majority of their time in the hospital, so the online format is a change, but this format allows them to continue all of their lectures and small group sessions. The students are also still able to directly interact with faculty and ask questions.

“This is a crucial time in these students’ medical career,” Hunter said. “It’s important that they continue their educational activities despite not being able to be inside the hospital.”

Hunter said the online classes have gone smoothly for both the faculty and the students. He credits Julie Estis, Ph.D., director of academic enhancement at USA and a team-based learning collaborative certified trainer-consultant, and the USA Innovation in Learning Center staff for helping to quickly educate the faculty on the new technology.