Medical school students adapt to virtual learning

Hands-on skills such as physical exams are being taught via Zoom to small groups.

When the 160 first- and second-year UW School of Medicine students returned to Gonzaga from Spring Break, they learned their education would shift to a virtual format because of COVID-19. While students have been distanced, they are doing their best to stay connected with classmates and instructors to continue their rigorous coursework online.

“We’re giving each other a lot of grace because we know this is a really difficult situation. We definitely miss seeing our friends, but know it’s important that we stay separate,” said Grayson Baden, a first-year student. “UWSOM and our faculty are working really hard to communicate information clearly, provide resources, and integrate feedback from students.”

During this phase of their medical school education, courses focus on basic science and clinical skills. Hands-on clinical skills, such as physical exams, are being taught via Zoom to small groups.

A new two-week elective class, "Pandemics and Health System Responses," was introduced to share timely, relevant information with students about the global pandemic. 

“It’s been really inspiring to see how our faculty, instructors, staff and administrators have adapted through all of the unknowns during this difficult time,” Baden added.

Another first-year student, Dana Arenz, said, “Virtual small group learning requires a lot of collaboration and has been a great way for us to stay connected,” adding that she struggles most with adapting to an online anatomy lab. “Looking at very zoomed-in pictures and videos of human anatomy is much harder to wrap my head around.”

According to Dr. William Sayres, assistant dean of the Foundations Phase, students are succeeding despite the challenges. “Students did well on the last exam, so as a litmus test of how things are going in Foundations, it’s ‘so far, so good.’”

Arenz added, “This experience has been a great reminder of the duties required by the job we are all electing to go into. We are not only serving our personal patient population, but we are serving the entire community in an effort to ensure good public health."

– Kim Blakeley, 206.685.1323,

For details about UW Medicine, please visit

Tags:distance learning

UW Medicine