The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic disrupted the landscape of traditional neurosurgical subinternships, ramifications of which persist to this day. The outright cancellation of in-person subinternships in 2020 presented not only a challenge to both applicants and programs, but also an opportunity to establish an effective and efficient platform for virtual neurosurgical training. To address this need, the authors designed and trialed a novel virtual neurosurgical subinternship (Virtual Sub-I).
The weeklong, case-based Virtual Sub-I program combined flipped-classroom and active learning approaches. Students worked in small groups to discuss neurosurgical cases. Faculty and residents offered personalized mentorship sessions to participants. Surveys were used to assess students’ experience with the authors’ subinternship program, consistent with level 1 of the Kirkpatrick model.
A total of 132 students applied from both international and American medical schools. The final cohort comprised 27 students, of whom 8 (30%) were female and 19 (70%) were male. Students characterized the subinternship as “interactive,” “educational,” and “engaging.” One hundred percent of survey respondents were “very likely” to recommend the Virtual Sub-I to their peers. Faculty involved in the Virtual Sub-I stated that the program allowed them to determine the fit of participating medical students for their neurosurgery residency program, and that information gathered from the Virtual Sub-I had the potential to influence their ranking decisions.
The Virtual Sub-I recapitulates the educational and interpersonal benefits of the traditional subinternship experience and can serve as a prototype for future virtual surgical education endeavors. Furthermore, the Virtual Sub-I presents a more equitable platform for introducing medical students across the undergraduate medical education spectrum to neurosurgical education and mentorship.