New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University announced that the medical school would move to an all-virtual platform starting Nov. 23, and students will not return to campus until the week of Jan. 18, 2021. Additionally, all staff and faculty will be instructed to work remotely during that time period.
“From the beginning of the semester, our plan has always been to shift our students virtually over the Thanksgiving break,” said Shane Speights, DO, dean of NYITCOM at Arkansas State. “As our leadership planned for what we knew would be an academic year unlike any other, we decided several weeks ago that we would likely implement a fully remote plan that included our staff and faculty.”
“We are entering a time in our state and country where we are seeing and expecting to see a significant increase in viral spread over the coming weeks and months. The recent trends confirmed our need to adjust. We’re very fortunate that our institution is very technology driven, so we have the infrastructure in place to make this transition seamlessly, just as we did when the pandemic initially hit this spring.”
NYITCOM has taken extreme precautions throughout the fall semester to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19. All lectures have been delivered online, and in-person labs were executed in smaller groups than normal with students being required to wear masks and all instructors in full personal protective equipment (PPE).
Medical students typically congregate in Wilson Hall to study together and interact with each other throughout the day, but in August, NYITCOM leadership closed the building for any activity outside of required labs. Everyone entering Wilson Hall has their temperature checked by a computerized thermal scanner that also ensures they are wearing a mask. All visitors are met by a COM staffer on a computer screen who can interact with them virtually to reduce the risk.
“This is medical school and there are some portions of our curriculum that have to be delivered in person,” Speights said. “You can’t dissect a cadaver or perform a physical exam virtually. You can't learn osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) without physical contact. We’ve been extremely careful to limit personal interaction to the absolute minimum, and we’ve stringently enforced policies to do our best to keep our students, faculty, and staff safe. And it has worked.”