In the early months of the response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (JHUSOM) (Baltimore, Maryland) leadership reached out to faculty to develop and implement virtual clinical clerkships after all in-person medical student clinical experiences were suspended.
To develop and implement a digital slide-based virtual surgical pathology (VSP) clinical elective to meet the demand for meaningful and robust virtual clinical electives in response to the temporary suspension of in-person clinical rotations at JHUSOM.
The VSP elective was modeled after the in-person surgical pathology elective to include virtual previewing and sign-out with standardized cases supplemented by synchronous and asynchronous pathology educational content.
Validation of existing Web communications technology and slide-scanning systems was performed by feasibility testing. Curriculum development included drafting of course objectives and syllabus, Blackboard course site design, electronic-lecture creation, communications with JHUSOM leadership, scheduling, and slide curation. Subjectively, the weekly schedule averaged 35 to 40 hours of asynchronous, synchronous, and independent content, approximately 10 to 11 hours of which were synchronous. As of February 2021, VSP has hosted 35 JHUSOM and 8 non-JHUSOM students, who have provided positive subjective and objective course feedback.
The Johns Hopkins VSP elective provided meaningful clinical experience to 43 students in a time of immense online education need. Added benefits of implementing VSP included increased medical student exposure to pathology as a medical specialty and demonstration of how digital slides have the potential to improve standardization of the pathology clerkship curriculum.