Sages Reimagining Education & Learning (real) Project

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Surgical Endoscopy


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has presented multiple challenges for health systems throughout the world. The clinical priorities of redirecting personnel and resources to provide the necessary beds, care, and staff to handle the initial waves of infected individuals, and the drive to develop an effective vaccine, were the most visible and rightly took precedent. However, the spread of the COVID-19 virus also led to less apparent but equally challenging impediments for healthcare professionals. Continuing professional development (CPD) for physicians and surgeons practically ceased as national societies postponed or canceled annual meetings and activities. The traditional in-person conferences were no longer viable options during a pandemic in which social distancing and minimization of contacts was the emerging norm. Like other organizations, The Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES) had to first postpone and then cancel altogether the in-person 2020 Annual Meeting due to the contingencies brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the traditional hands-on (HO) courses that typically occur as part of the Annual Meeting, could not take place. SAGES had already begun to re-structure these courses in an effort to increase their effectiveness (Dort, Trickey, Paige, Schwarz, Dunkin in Surg Endosc 33(9):3062–3068, 2019; Dort et al. in Surg Endosc 32(11):4491–4497, 2018; Dort, Trickey, Schwarz, Paige in Surg Endosc 33(9):3062–3068, 2019). The cancelations brought about by COVID-19 provided an opportunity to refine and to innovate further. Methods: In this manner, the Re-imaging Education & Learning (REAL) project crystallized, an innovative effort to leverage the latest educational concepts as well as communication and simulation-based technologies to enhance procedural adoption by converting HO courses to a virtual format. Results and conclusion: This manuscript describes the key components of REAL, reviewing the restructuring of the HO courses before and after the spread of COVID-19, describing the educational framework underlying it, discussing currently available technologies and materials, and evaluating the advantages of such a format.

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