The Impact of COVID-19 on Surgical Education

Madhuri B. Nagaraj, Holly B. Weis, Joshua J. Weis, Grayden S. Cook, Lisa W. Bailey, Thomas H. Shoultz, Deborah E. Farr, Kareem R. AbdelFattah, Linda A. Dultz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: At the onset of social distancing, our general surgery residency transitioned its educational curriculum to an entirely virtual format with no gaps in conference offerings. The aim of this study is to examine the feasibility of our evolution to a virtual format and report program attitudes toward the changes. Methods: On March 15, 2020, due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) our institution restricted mass gatherings. We immediately transitioned all lectures to a virtual platform. The cancellation of elective surgeries in April 2020 then created the need for augmented resident education opportunities. We responded by creating additional lectures and implementing a daily conference itinerary. To evaluate the success of the changes and inform the development of future curriculum, we surveyed residents and faculty regarding the changes. Classes and faculty answers were compared for perception of value of the online format. Results: Pre-COVID-19, residency-wide educational offerings were concentrated to one half-day per week. Once restrictions were in place, our educational opportunities were expanded to a daily schedule and averaged 16.5 hours/week during April. Overall, 41/63 residents and 25/94 faculty completed the survey. The majority of residents reported an increased ability (56%) or similar ability (34.1%) to attend virtual conferences while 9.9% indicated a decrease. Faculty responses indicated similar effects (64% increased, 32% similar, 4% decreased). PGY-1 residents rated the changes negatively compared to other trainees and faculty. PGY-2 residents reported neutral views and all other trainees and faculty believed the changes positively affected educational value. Comments from PGY1 and 2 residents revealed they could not focus on virtual conferences as it was not “protected time” in a classroom and that they felt responsible for patient care during virtual lectures. A majority of both residents (61%) and faculty (84%) reported they would prefer to continue virtual conferences in the future. Conclusions: The necessity for adapting our academic offerings during the COVID-19 era has afforded our program the opportunity to recognize the feasibility of virtual platforms and expand our educational offerings. The majority of participants report stable to improved attendance and educational value. Virtual lectures should still be considered protected time in order to maximize the experience for junior residents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)366-373
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • Covid-19
  • Curriculum development
  • Educational conferences
  • Virtual curriculum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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