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Medical Student Participation in a Virtual Speaker Series Significantly Increases Interest in a Career in Plastic Surgery
Victoria I. Prete1, Giorgio Giatsidis2
1University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA; 2University of Massachusetts Department of Plastic Surgery, Worcester, MA

Background: Knowledge of the scope of plastic surgery (PS) amongst medical students is low and this gap has been shown to impact the number of students applying to PS residency programs. Students from medical schools that donít have a home PS program are disproportionally impacted by this lack of exposure with nearly a 50% decrease in the ratio of students that apply to PS from schools without PS residency programs compared to those that do. We propose that virtual learning can provide a possible solution to this gap in exposure, by allowing for remote involvement of faculty and students across different institutions, with limited-to-no requirements for dedicated resources.
Methods: In this single-institution prospective cohort study, medical students who completed 1-3 years of medical school were invited to attend 10 weekly virtual lectures featuring all major topics in PS presented by renowned academic plastic surgeons. Participants completed a questionnaire pre-/post-series to assess their exposure to, knowledge of, and interest in a career in PS. Subjective knowledge was evaluated on a 5-point Likert scale and objective knowledge through the identification of 34 PS (divided in general reconstruction, craniofacial, upper/lower extremity, and aesthetic) and non-PS procedures. Interest in a career in PS was graded on a 10-point Likert scale.
Results: Forty-four students completed the pre-series questionnaire and twenty-four students completed the post-series questionnaire. Pre-series, students reported none-to-minimal (61.4%) and inadequate (61.4%) exposure to PS. Only 68.8% of students considered PS an essential life-saving discipline pre-series, compared to 87.5% post-series (p=0.048). Participantsí subjective self-evaluation of their knowledge of the scope of PS increased significantly from Pre-series to Post-series (p<0.005). Pre-series only 11.4% rated their knowledge as moderate to substantial compared to Post-series 87.5%. Considering all procedures, Post-series respondents more frequently (13.3%) correctly identified PS procedures (p=0.001). Career interest in PS increased with 45.8% reporting high-interest post-series compared to 15.9% pre-series (p=0.04). All lectures received high appreciation.
Conclusion:: Student participation in a 10-session virtual lectures series significantly increased medical studentsí understanding of PS and also increased interest in a career in PS. Regional/national expansion of this reproducible format could strengthen PS outreach and improve the quantity/quality of residency applications in addition to providing equitable access to PS education.


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