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COVID-19: The Point of View of an Italian Student

BY SIMONA SICA, SVS SOCIAL MEDIA AMBASSADOR

The global spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 has profoundly affected the way we conduct our vascular surgery practices. In Italy, since the first case confirmed on January 31st, the ongoing epidemic growth has resulted in a dramatic increase in reported cases, which as of April 14, 2020, stand at 162,488. The lack of enough hospital beds has made it very difficult to meet the needs of the massive wave of simultaneously ill patients, especially in the very first weeks. As a consequence, hospitals have suddenly changed their operations, rescheduling elective vascular surgery to alleviate pressure on resources. The resilience shown by our medical community is very admirable and it really helped a lot in how our country managed the emergency and proposed solutions. Over the past days, our healthcare system is slowly recovering from the sudden hit we experienced over the past few weeks as new cases are increasing at a much slower pace and cases of people requiring intensive care are decreasing. This is boosting the morale of the whole population, especially among the medical community.

While our healthcare system, at first, was overwhelmed by this massive wave of cases, our education sector reacted very well and strongly. My University (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Rome) is streaming lectures online by keeping the schedule unchanged. E-learning tools have seen a spike in usage over the past weeks and, for what concerns the most theoretical part of our academic curriculum, students have not experienced dramatic changes. However, this pandemic has been challenging for the most practical part of our studies which, especially in the final years, is very important and represents the majority of our workload. Indeed, hospitals have had the objective to minimize exposure to COVID-19 and protect both the students and the residents, putting them away from training and practices. Nonetheless, I am still keeping in touch on a daily basis with my mentor Dr. Giovanni Tinelli as well as with the whole team through a weekly Zoom meeting, in which we discuss clinical cases with our Chief and Program Director Prof. Yamume Tshomba.

I believe that when we will come back from COVID-19, we will all share the belief and understanding that digital tools are complements, not substitutes since a lack of on-the-job experience causes very large gaps in the knowledge of students and residents. Indeed, classrooms will be more gainfully used for discussion and conversation and online education will be perceived as a key pillar for every academic plan.

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in.” Haruki Murakami