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STARS Students Pivoting to Virtual Conferences

Medical students across Canada have rapidly adapted to a medical school environment that moved most classroom learning to the virtual environment. So too have STARS chapters and interest groups at Canada’s 17 medical schools adapted by shifting activities online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. McMaster University has had a Resource Stewardship Interest Group since 2016, which has been led by each cohort of STARS students. Each year, a major activity of the interest group is to plan a conference in collaboration with the Hamilton Academy of Medicine on a resource stewardship theme, drawing an attendance of over 100 interprofessional students and faculty from the McMaster community. This conference has been certified as an interprofessional education event and includes the physician assistant, nursing, and rehabilitation programs alongside medical student learners and residents.

Once it became clear that an in-person conference would not be feasible, the McMaster STARS student leaders Claire So Jeong Lee and Gurinder Sandhu got to work on a virtual conference with interest group member and second-year student Naman Arora. Given that the conference would be held virtually, the organizing team set their sites on expanding their reach beyond Hamilton to include conference speakers, participants, and facilitators from the national STARS community across Canada.

With the shift to a national virtual conference, the planning committee was committed to providing a program that was interactive and engaging. Dr. Sacha Bhatia, who has led national and international measurement and evaluation efforts with Choosing Wisely Canada, set the tone for the day with a timely presentation on Resource Stewardship in the Post-COVID-19 Era. Concurrent and interactive workshops followed covering relevant topics including antimicrobial stewardship, overutilization of imaging and laboratory tests, virtual care, and the importance of engaging in conversations with patients. The sessions were facilitated by ten current STARS students and encouraged active engagement from participants. Dr. Jason Profetto, Faculty Lead of the Resource Stewardship Interest Group, wrapped up the day that reflected the importance of continuing efforts to embed resource stewardship into medical education.

Over 120 students and faculty attended the conference which took place on Saturday, October 3, 2020. Claire and Gurinder both felt that despite the inability to gather in person, the online platform allowed for enhanced student collaboration nationally and an opportunity to build community and connections across the country during a time where students are learning apart.

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