Department of Family Medicine and Biobehavioral Health faculty members, Emily Onello, MD, assistant professor, and James Boulger, PhD, Distinguished University Teaching Professor, recently published a special report in the scholarly journal, PRiMER of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine, describing the adaptation to a rurally-focused virtual curriculum during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. 

The limitations of the novel coronavirus prompted the cancellation of in-person clinical experiences for rural family medicine courses during the 2020 spring and summer semesters. Specifically, the longstanding Rural Medical Scholars Program (RMSP) sessions in March and June, impacting the entire first-year class on the Duluth campus.

To develop a virtually-focused syllabus, the department concentrated existing partnerships with rural family medicine physicians and rural healthcare organizations to create online learning opportunities through panel discussions on topics related to the rural opioid crisis, end-of-life care, access to rural obstetrical care, and rural preparedness in response to the COVID-19 pandemic 

The article concludes that despite efforts to create a rurally-focused virtual curriculum, most students agreed that virtual classwork takes second place to hands-on learning with rural family physicians in rural communities across the region.