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This article is the author’s final published version in BMC Medical Education, Volume 21, Issue 1, April 2021, Article number 244.

The published version is available at Copyright © Dworkin et al.

Publication made possible in part by support from the Jefferson Open Access Fund


BACKGROUND: The SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic is a global event with unprecedented impact on individuals and communities around the world. The purpose of this study is to use a modified photo-elicitation methodology to examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives of medical students and their communities around the world.

METHODS: Participating medical students were asked to take photographs for 14 days. In lieu of an interview, which is customary for photo-elicitation projects, participants were asked to share a reflection (a paragraph or two) for each photograph they contributed to the study.

RESULTS: Between April 27th, 2020 and May 11th, 2020 26 students from 19 medical schools across 13 countries shared photographs and reflections. Qualitative analysis of written reflections revealed that medical students felt the impact of the pandemic on several levels 1) individual, 2) interpersonal, 3) educational, and 4) societal.

CONCLUSIONS: The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of medical students on multiple levels. As individuals, students felt emotional distress but found resilience through physical activity and the establishment of new routines. Many students felt isolated as their interpersonal relationships were confined due to social distancing measures. These feelings could be combated with new educational initiatives focused on group collaboration. Lastly, students reflecting on the larger societal implications were concerned with the economic ramifications of the virus and its impact on their future. This study brought together students from several different countries to engage in an applied learning program as a model for equitable global health research.

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