Residency and fellowship programs continue as UF COMJ copes with COVID-19

Senior leaders, residency program directors and other faculty members convene virtually for the monthly meeting of the Graduate Medical Education Committee at the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville. The Tuesday, May 5, e-meeting featured more than 50 participants.

Some trainees have been reassigned to other rotations due to reduced clinical activities.

Most of the nearly 400 resident physicians and fellows at the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville continue to train on campus as the college copes with the threat and effects of COVID-19.

UF Health Jacksonville’s cancellation of elective surgeries in March caused corresponding clinical training rotations to be put on hold. Residents and fellows were reassigned to other clinical and educational experiences within their respective programs, said Linda Edwards, MD, senior associate dean for educational affairs at the College of Medicine – Jacksonville.

“Clinical volume in general is down, which also impacts consultation services,” Edwards said. “Just as faculty members are learning how to manage patients virtually through telehealth, so are the residents and fellows.”

She says another major shift has been in the didactic structure of the training programs.

“All in-person conferences have been changed to virtual meetings and programs are hosting innovative educational conferences,” Edwards said. “The residents and fellows have been great in adjusting to the ‘new normal’ of graduate medical education.”

Communication and contingency planning

David Caro, MD, associate chair of educational affairs and director of the emergency medicine residency program, created an institutional plan that details how faculty members and trainees at the college would be reassigned to address increased clinical care demands. However, no residents or fellows have had to be moved.

Caro and Edwards conduct weekly Zoom meetings with residency and fellowship program directors and associate directors to ensure communication remains strong during the pandemic. Those two — along with Leon L. Haley Jr., MD, MHSA, dean of the college — also host weekly virtual town hall-style meetings with residents and fellows, giving them a chance to ask questions and hear directly from senior leadership.

“We know this is a challenging time for residents and fellows,” Haley said. “Our greatest concern is their safety and well-being. We want to help alleviate anxieties and attempt to maintain some semblance of normalcy while they continue in their training programs.”

Meanwhile, Edwards takes part in weekly Zoom meetings for designated institutional officials, held by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, or ACGME. Its members discuss a host of key issues, such as fulfilling program requirements and helping ensure trainees remain adequately supervised and have access to personal protective equipment and other essential items.

Despite elective surgery cancellations, clinic closures and social distancing requirements, the College of Medicine – Jacksonville remains in Stage 1 for graduate medical education operations during a pandemic, as defined by the ACGME. Stage 1 indicates things are “Business as Usual.”

“But we recognize we are far from business as usual right now,” Edwards said. The second and third stages are “Increased Clinical Demands Guidance” and “Pandemic Emergency Status Guidance,” respectively.

Visit this link for detailed information from the ACGME about COVID-19’s impact on residency and fellowship training.

Featured Faculty

David A. Caro, MD

David A. Caro, MD

Associate Chair, Educational Affairs, Department of Emergency Medicine; Program Director, Emergency Medicine Residency

Linda R. Edwards, MD

Linda R. Edwards, MD

Associate Professor
Dean, College of Medicine - Jacksonville