Medical Student Virtual Away Rotations: A Missed Opportunity for ObGyn Residency Programs

Chan, Kelsi
Stowers, Paris
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Introduction: Medical students participate in away rotations to gain experience, learn about a program, and increase the likelihood they will match at a particular residency program. Transportation and housing costs for an in-person away rotation can be barriers for many medical students seeking to match to competitive residency programs or specialties. These barriers disproportionately affect medical trainees from marginalized backgrounds. With the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person away rotations were momentarily discontinued and partially replaced by virtual away rotations, eliminating the financial cost and creating more opportunities for inclusion of medical students with less financial resources. With these potential benefits, we aimed to analyze the breadth of specialties offered virtually. Telehealth is well integrated into the field of obstetrics and gynecology. Virtual visits are utilized for prenatal care, gynecology surgical consultation, post-op follow up, contraceptive counseling, and abortion care. Based on this, we hypothesized that obstetrics and gynecology programs would be early adopters of virtual away rotations. Objectives: To identify the number and types of virtual away rotations offered to medical students in the 2021 academic year, with a focus on obstetrics and gynecology rotations. Methods: The University of Hawaii Institutional Review Board classified this study as not human subject research. Using the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Visiting Student Application Service, we searched a database of medical student away rotations for available virtual away rotations. For each available virtual rotation, we extracted data concerning rotation type, topic, and geographic location. We used descriptive statistics to analyze the results. Results: We identified 99 exclusively virtual away rotations offered to US medical students in 2021. The majority of these rotations were classified as clinical rotations (79%). 52% of the virtual rotations focused on medical specialties and 21% focused on surgical specialties. Other specialties offering virtual away rotations included dermatology, emergency medicine, ophthalmology, and pathology. No virtual away rotations were offered by a department of obstetrics and gynecology. Only two family medicine departments offered virtual away rotations focused on women’s health topics including lactation and family planning. Discussion: The limited opportunities for medical students to participate in virtual obstetrics and gynecology rotations is a missed opportunity to connect with residency programs, especially students who may be from marginalized groups. Geographically distant programs, such as Hawaii-based programs, may also benefit from including students who would otherwise not be able to afford an in-person away rotation. Conclusion: There are limited opportunities for virtual away rotations focused on women’s health, obstetrics, or gynecology. This gap represents an opportunity for obstetrics and gynecology residency programs to develop virtual rotations focused on women’s health to help recruit from a wider population of medical students.
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