UAB: Plans in place to let medical students graduate early to treat COVID-19 if needed

Updated: Apr. 7, 2020 at 7:13 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - As hospitalizations for COVID-19 in Alabama rise, so too will the demand on medical staffs.

UAB Huntsville Medical Campus Dean Dr. Roger Smalligan said if needed, the university will allow fourth year medical students to graduate early to join the workforce.

His comments come after Gov. Kay Ivey’s Volunteer Services Office announced it would be rolling out a new program to collect the information of reserve medical workers, including retired professionals and qualified students.

Smalligan said for the most part, the students have been receptive.

“We actually recently put out a feeler to our 4th year students, and we got a number of very nice responses. ‘If you need me, I’m ready,’" he said.

He said the university is putting an emphasis on student safety, and stressed any such early graduation for front-line patient treatment would be on a volunteer basis. He said UAB has pulled its medical students from their in-hospital rotations at Huntsville Hospital, and will provide make-up training when the danger has passed.

For other students, he said he’s looking at creating volunteer opportunities for them answer COVID-19 hotline calls, something their counterparts in Birmingham are currently doing.

“They have knowledge to be able to help people who have had concerns about their symptoms, about the exposures they’ve had,” he said.

Third year student Paul St. Clair said he would like to volunteer, and thinks his colleagues feel the same way.

“If there’s the opportunity for me to do something and I have the capacity to be useful, I feel I ought to be," he said.

“I think a lot of us got into medicine because we want to be useful, we want to be helpful, we want to be involved.”

It’s unclear if or when medical students will be asked to take a larger role.

There are roughly 70 UAB medical students in Huntsville.

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