UBC medical students volunteer to support front-line physicians

Students aim to ease pressure through personal assistance, childcare, and remote-patient support

Southern Medical Program (SMP) students based at UBC Okanagan are assisting front-line physicians in the battle against COVID-19 in the BC Interior.

With the temporary suspension of clinical training in hospitals and clinics across the province, many medical students felt sidelined and began looking for ways to support physicians and patients during the pandemic.

Over 80 SMP students have joined the BC COVID-19 medical student response team, a UBC student-led initiative supporting physicians and volunteer projects in all regions of the province.

“Volunteering is a tangible and effective way to make a difference,” says Alex Monaghan, SMP student and volunteer organizer. “We wanted to get involved out of appreciation and gratitude for those working to keep us protected and safe.”

From providing childcare and personal assistance to physicians, to supporting patients remotely, SMP students have rallied together to offer their support across the Interior Health region.

Students have helped configure tablets with video messaging applications to help patients at Kelowna General Hospital (KGH) stay connected with their families. They also recently launched a meal preparation and delivery service to support physicians and their families.

“As we adjust, both personally and professionally to the new realities of life with COVID-19, I’m deeply encouraged by the generosity and solidarity of this newest generation of future physicians,” says Dr. Sarah Brears, Interim Regional Associate Dean for the Southern Medical Program and family physician. “The extra support they’re offering to the community is helping many physicians stay focused on their work and their patients.”

SMP student Brian Hayes is one of the volunteers helping out by entertaining the busy 18-month old of a local physician working at KGH.

For Hayes, volunteering is a small way to give back during an unprecedented time.

“As individuals committed to providing care to the public, we have a strong desire to assist those on the front lines,” says Hayes. “Volunteering our time to support physicians with an inflated workload or help with projects such as contact tracing allows us to be engaged in the COVID-19 response.”

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve, students remain committed to volunteering with projects that can support physicians, patients, and the healthcare system as a whole.

“We chose medicine because we have a deeply ingrained desire to make a difference in the lives of those around us,” says Monaghan. “Those values don’t disappear just because there’s a pause in our clinical training. We’re here to help in whatever form that takes.”