Back to the Future: Medicine Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic

Madeleine J. Cox1, Leah Komer2, Ciara Egan3, Purva C. Shah4, Nikoleta Tellios5, Annora A. Kumar6

doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5195/ijms.2021.1023

Volume 9, Number 1: 9-10

It has been over a year, and the unforeseen consequences of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak (COVID-19) continue to impact all domains of our lives. This global phenomenon has meant that medical professionals, students, and scientists have had to adapt to changes in policy, practice, and education to withstand challenging environments and uncertainty. In the face of the incomprehensible pain and suffering caused by COVID-19, we are humbled by the sacrifices made by all healthcare workers around the world, and together we must manifest their resilience and unity in order to guide the era of medicine beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Research efforts towards COVID-19 have been tremendous, yielding important insights into the biopsychosocial impacts of the virus. The contributions of the International Journal of Medical Students (IJMS) towards the growing scientific field of COVID-19 research have been twofold. IJMS has provided a platform for medical students to share their research, experiences, and training during these unprecedented times. IJMS has also helped to foster an interest in research at the student level by training new generations of editors and reviewers, and thus shaping the next generation of physician-scientists.1 While it is important to reflect on current events to better understand the situation at hand and prepare for the future, we need to remember that there is medicine beyond the pandemic. Although articles unrelated to COVID-19 seem to have moved out of the spotlight, they are more important than ever. We hope this issue of the IJMS can be a “passing of the baton” from COVID-19 centered experiences to a new era of excellence in research by medical students.

We are grateful and humbled to be a space of reflection for many students during this pandemic, and we have all learnt from the shared experiences of our peers. Many have addressed the challenges of online learning,2,3 and practicing clinical procedures remotely.4 Others have utilized online platforms to provide teaching to the youth,5 becoming more connected with friends, family, and current events.6 With clinical placements cancelled or taught remotely, students have volunteered in their communities through telemedicine services,7 assisting community hospitals,8 and providing mental health services.9 Some students have been challenged by unfair working conditions,10 inadequate patient exposure, and clinical skill development.11 We have seen diverse COVID-19 experiences from around the globe, from Brazil to the Philippines, to Nigeria, and more. Seeing the resourcefulness of medical students during a pandemic is a reminder that although medical training can take a toll on our mental health, we are resilient and we are the protagonists of our learning and training.

In his editorial one year ago, Editor-in-Chief Dr. Francisco J. Bonilla-Escobar reminded all of us during the first wave of the pandemic that “Nevertheless, we need to be sure that we are moving forward”.12 We continue to do this, and in this issue we have published original articles, short communications, a review, and case study unrelated to the pandemic. We learn of the importance of medical students identifying serious clinical conditions earlier than their senior counterparts,13 peer-to-peer tutoring that reduces the dependence of expert training and instills leadership and communication skills in students.14 Furthermore, Rondilla et al. describes patient rationale for folk medicine, which enables medical professionals to strengthen relationships with patients and thus, provide effective healthcare.15

In this issue we are introduced to automated hematological analyzers for the potential screening and diagnosis of malaria16 and neuronal interconnections observed in adversely affected children for predictive diagnoses and prevention of paediatric mental health conditions.17 Huang et al. provide a possible public health solution of establishing eyeglass donations to serve vision impaired low socioeconomic populations.18 Additionally, Nahian et al. demonstrate the importance of surgical adaptations in the setting of an eight year old with a cerebral palsy neuromuscular hip disorder.19 We are also made aware that we are living in the technological era of social media dominance. The benefits of telehealth20 and easily accessible, comprehendible medical resources21 are discussed, however, we are also reminded about the risks of breaking patient confidentiality,20 and providing misguided and potentially dangerous information through social media networks.22

The foundation of a strong patient-doctor relationship is based on the respect of a patient's background. Good communication skills are an important part of this, as seen in the experience of Jayawardana with a deaf patient.23 The experience by Rector et al. reinforces this by highlighting the importance of intercultural communication and describing their insights into Hispanic gender roles and culture.24 We are also positioned to appreciate the benefits of working and learning overseas and in remote locations,25,26 which can test the resilience of medical students especially if language or cultural barriers are involved. It is also great to see communication within the IJMS community. In this issue, we see the response of Yamamoto-Moreno27 to Patricio Garcia-Espinosa,28 a leader in neurology, reiterating the importance of hypertension awareness in controlling the risk of stroke in Mexico

Finally, in the experience article The Vigil of Medicine written by Kelly, she utilizes her hiking trip as an analogy of the journey of medicine;29 fraught with challenges of physical demands and mental exhaustion, which is also well described by Young.30 She brings all medical professionals together, be it a pandemic or not, to remind us we are never alone. The IJMS agree with this underlying message of unity, and proves this by bringing together medical students from around the world to write this issue. It is a reminder that as medical students, junior doctors or senior consultants, we are never alone.

Although COVID-19 has taken away our opportunities for clinical clerkships and in-person learning,31 it has given us an insight into the responsibilities that we will face in as future doctors. In the same way that exposure to stress in previous generations can trigger genetic changes that are passed down to children and grandchildren,32 the pandemic is a stark reminder that we will one day inherit the responsibilities of caring for the health of society. However, our genetic makeup also provides us the ability to heal from trauma and stress in multiple ways. The human body's healing process replaces the damaged tissue with the same type as before, or, when it is unable to, forms a scar. Similarly, for some of us, there is no returning to the training we had pre-pandemic, as we will be graduating and starting in the front-line work force. For others, the future of clinical training is less certain as teaching has shifted to online learning and some programs have been prolonged. As we progress, and recover, let this scar remind us of our resiliency, unity, and let us return to our passion for research, discovery, and learning.


As members of the Editorial Team we would like to take this opportunity to thank the IJMS Committee in particular, Francisco Javier Bonilla-Escobar.

Conflict of Interest Statement & Funding

The Authors have no funding, financial relationships or conflicts of interest to disclose.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization: MJC, LK, CE. Writing – Original Draft Preparation: MJC, LK, CE, SPC. Writing – Review & Editing: MJC, LK, CE, SPC, NT.


1. Bonilla-Escobar FJ, Kumar AA, Farrugia-Bonnici G, Ryan PM, Găman MA. A Grain of Sand in the Ocean: Training New Generations of Editors, Reviewers, and Medical Scientists. Int J Med Students. 2020 Sep-Dec;8(3):213–6.

2. Botello-Hernández E, García-Espinosa P, Ruiz-Padilla JP, Torres-Hernández G, Fernández-Garza LE. Medical students' perception towards the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico: distance learning, assisting to hospitals, and vaccination. Int J Med Students. 2021 Jan-Apr;9(1):33–6.

3. Wafula I, Ong'era EM. Deprived of the Sea: Being a Kenyan Final-year Medical Student During the COVID-19 Outbreak. Int J Med Students. 2021 JanApr;9(1):80–1.

4. Cedeño TDD, Rocha IC, Ramos KG, Uy NM. Learning Strategies and Innovations among Medical Students in the Philippines during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Int J Med Students. 2021 Jan–Apr;9(1):77–9.

5. Grunhut J, Brown S, Averkiou P. Service Learning Goes Virtual in the Viral World. Int J Med Students. 2021 Jan–Apr;9(1):75–6.

6. Yoo JH, Mercer NP. COVID-19: Not a Positive Test Result, but a Positive Outlook. Int J Med Students. 2021 Jan–Apr;9(1):88–9.

7. Correa TL, Guelli MSTC. Telemedicine Volunteering Experience as a Medical Student During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Brazil. Int J Med Students. 2021 JanApr;9(1):71–2.

8. Aderounmu, B., Odedara, A. Clinical Volunteering through the Pandemic: An Experience from Final Year Medical Students in Nigeria. Int J Med Students. 2021 Jan–Apr; 9(1):66–7.

9. Soyemi T. Coping Strategies for Medical Students During the Pandemic: A Nigerian Perspective. Int J Med Students. 2021 Jan–Apr;9(1):90–1.

10. Torres-Hernández, G, García-Espinosa, P, Botello-Hernández, E, Ortega-Moreno, D. Mexican Medical Students Protest During COVID-19 Pandemic. Int J Med Students. 2021 Jan–Apr; 9(1):63–5.

11. George, AP, Ewens, EE. Two Student Perspectives on Clinical Medical Education During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Int J Med Students. 2021 Jan–Apr;9(1):61–2.

12. Bonilla-Escobar FJ. Leadership and Health: The Scientific Journal's Mission of Spreading Science in Times of Pandemic. Int J Med Students. 2020 Jan–Apr;8(1):9–10.

13. Sadeh R, Gat T, Kaplan O, Porges T, Zeller, L, Barski L, et al. Case series: Point-of-Care Ultrasound Conducted by Medical Students During their First Clinical Rotation Changes Patients' Primary Diagnosis and Management. Int J Med Students. 2021 Jan–Apr;9(1):15–20.

14. El-Baba M, Corbett K, Dillon K, Heslop C. Medical Student POCUS Peer-to-Peer Teaching: Ready for Mainstream. Int J Med Students. 2021 Jan–Apr;9(1):11–4.

15. Rondilla NAO, Rocha ICN, Roque SJR, Lu RMS, Apolinar NLB, Solaiman-Balt AA, et al. Folk Medicine in the Philippines: A Phenomenological Study of Health-Seeking Individuals. Int J Med Students. 2021 Jan–Apr;9(1):25–32.

16. Juthani R, Gupta T, Basu D. Scatterplot Variations Seen in Malaria Using Automated Hematological Analyzers: A Series of Ten Cases. Int J Med Students. 2021 Jan–Apr;9(1):21–4.

17. Shand A. Childhood Adversity Linked to Neurological Circuitry Changes and Mental Health Disorders: A Narrative Review. Int J Med Students. 2021 JanApr;9(1):43–51.

18. Huang VP, Kim ME, Mohan S, Daskivich LP, Berry JL. The Utility of Recycled Eyeglasses: A Pilot Study at the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services Int J Med Students. 2021 Jan–Apr;9(1)37–40.

19. Nahian A, Sees JP. 8-Year-Old Child with Cerebral Palsy Treated with Pelvic Osteotomies Using 3.5 mm Blade Plate Having Subsequent Bilateral Implant Aseptic Loosening: A Case Report. Int J Med Students. 2021 Jan–Apr;9(1):52–5.

20. Olek, MJ, Bui, L. Medical Electronic Devolution. Int J Med Students. 2021 Jan–Apr;9(1):92–3.

21. Ali S, Murtaza MM. Combatting Misinformation During the COVID-19 Pandemic via Social Media. Int J Med Students. 2021 Jan–Apr;9(1):56–8.

22. Manfredini E. Providing Health Information on Social Media: What is the Limit for Medical Students? Int J Med Students. 2021 Jan–Apr;9(1):94–5.

23. Jayawardana HDP. Speaking Medicine in the Silent Language: Experience with a Deaf Patient in Sri Lanka. Int J Med Students. Jan-Apr Dec;9(1):59–60.

24. Rector D, Nowlen MA. Learning from Hispanic Mentees: A Reflection on Cultural and Socioeconomic Differences. Int J Med Students. 2021 Jan–Apr;9(1):73–4.

25. Soboka JG, Salamanca O, Calise A. My Experience with Orbis International and the Flying Eye Hospital in Ethiopia. Int J Med Students. 2021 Jan–Apr;9(1):68–70

26. Diebel SR. Cultural Placement: My Experience in a Remote Fly-in Indigenous Community in Northern Ontario, Canada. Int J Med Students. 2021 Jan–Apr; 9(1):86–7.

27. Yamamoto-Moreno, JA. Response to Letter to the Editor Regarding “Hypertension Awareness, Treatment, and Control in Mexico: An Opportunistic Medical Student-led Blood Pressure Screening Campaign – A Cross-Sectional Study”. Int J Med Students. 2021 Jan–Apr;9(1):98–9.

28. García-Espinosa P. Letter to the Editor Regarding “Hypertension Awareness, Treatment, and Control in Mexico: An Opportunistic Medical Student-led Blood Pressure Screening Campaign – A Cross-Sectional Study”. Int J Med Students. 2021 Jan–Apr;9(1):96–7.

29. Kelly K. The Vigil of Medicine. Int J Med Students. 2021 Jan–Apr;9(1):82–3.

30. Young K. Hurricane Kids: Impact of Socioeconomic, Public Health, Medical Education, and Natural Disasters on a Doctor in Training. Int J Med Students. 2021 Jan–Apr;9(1):84–5.

31. Găman MA, Ryan PM, Bonilla-Escobar FJ. To Stay at Port or to go to Sea: Are Clinical Clerkships a Double-Edged Sword during the COVID-19 Pandemic? Where do we go From Here?. Int J Med Students. 2002 May–Aug;8(2):92–95.

32. Esteller M. Epigenetics in evolution and disease. The Lancet (British edition). 2008 Dec 1;372:S90–S96

Madeleine J. Cox, 1 BMedSc, BSc(Hons), MD student, MScMed (SRH) student. University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia. Student Editor IJMS

Leah Komer, 2 BSc (Hons), Medical Student, School of Medicine University College Cork, Cork, Ireland. Student Editor IJMS

Ciara Egan, 3 BSc, Medical Student, Humanitas University, Humanitas Research Hospital, Milan, Italy. Student Editor IJMS

Purva C. Shah, 4 Baroda Medical College and SSG Hospital, Vadodara, India

Nikoleta Tellios, 5 BMSc, MSc, Medical Student, School of Medicine University College Cork, Cork, Ireland. Student Editor IJMS

Annora A. Kumar, 6 Medical Student, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia

Correspondence: Madeleine J. Cox, Address: Wallace Wurth Building, Botany St, Kensington, NSW 2052, Australia. Email: madeleine.cox@unsw.edu.au

Cite as: Cox MJ, Komer L, Egan C, Shah PC, Tellios N, Kumar AA. Back to the Future: Medicine Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic. Int J Med Students. 2021 Jan-Apr;9(1):9-10

Copyright © 2021 Madeleine J. Cox, Leah Komer, Ciara Egan, Purva C. Shah, Nikoleta Tellios, Annora A. Kumar

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

International Journal of Medical Students, VOLUME 9, NUMBER 1, April 2021