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Rector’s Letter on education during epidemic

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Students,
University Employees,
Employees of hospitals educating future medical personnel,

we are facing an extremely important and very difficult challenge, which is resuming teaching at medical studies. In the times of COVID-19 this is accompanied by obvious fears and doubts, especially with regard to starting clinical classes in health care units which are already struggling with other numerous difficulties.

The Rectors of medical universities met once again with the Minister of Health, the Vice-Minister Ms. Szczurek-Żelazko and the Ministry of Health management. We are aware that we all have an obligation to ensure the continuity of education of medical personnel. There is also no possibility to continue teaching exclusively online. Without starting practical classes the students will not be able to complete their semesters and they will not be able to graduate. This moment requires prudence and responsibility from us.

Medical universities in Europe have opened their doors or are in the process of doing so. The reduction of practical classes is implemented carefully, to a minimal extent. Everyone is aware that this is not the last hurdle of the crisis – it may fluctuate for quite a long time, maybe for several semesters, and another infectious agent may appear. Therefore we cannot just close the University and wait for the crisis to pass. We must learn to live with this threat responsibly, ensuring maximum safety of classes for students, personnel and, above all, hospital patients.

This responsibility is crucial. There have recently appeared statements that undermine current knowledge of humankind, contradicting the pragmatic assessment of reality. We do not know and understand everything about the epidemic. But balanced caution and responsibility are surely needed today. One cannot underestimate the threat that will certainly modify our plans. Quarantines of students and teachers, disinfection of premises, etc. will force us to take up hybrid classes and even go online. We should absolutely demand that we maintain direct contact, even temporarily, rotating and with smaller groups, while abiding by all known sanitary rules. Practical classes may also take other forms, when the contact with patients may prove difficult – simulations of briefings, case studies, prescribing drugs and tests, their interpretation, etc. As the Rector, I expect creativity and flexibility from academic teachers, and proper organization and supervision from course coordinators.

The basic condition for conducting classes is not underestimating the risk, wearing clean masks and white coats, and disinfecting hands. We recommend using your own additional disinfectants. Measuring temperature at all locations is not a recommended standard (introduced by hospitals). Clean, change-over shoes and a clean, ironed short-sleeved white coat are essential where indicated in the study program, including in hospitals. In the event of contact with patients, the students will be equipped with protective measures compliant with the sanitary standards of a given unit – at the same level as its employees. At the same time, we ask the course coordinators and students to be in close and continuous contact with the relevant vice-deans.

Difficult times lie ahead. Most of us have never before faced such a challenge. We must educate young people, ensure the safety of families and employees, and the health and lives of patients. We have to take care of the world we know. We can only do this if each of us understands and takes this responsibility.

Radzisław Kordek

Programs Medical University of Lodz
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