With well over a decade long trend as a top-five ranked program, The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine is known for its exceptional educational experience that prepares students to lead the field of veterinary medicine. Although the landscape may be different as our students return to campus this fall, the College of Veterinary Medicine is working diligently in tandem with planning already occurring on the state and university levels to execute a return to campus approach based on recommendations from the University’s Safe Campus and Scientific Advisory Subgroups, state officials, faculty, student and staff input and peer institutions.
Preparation for Fall Semester
The college recognized the need to engage a broad group of people in a COVID-19 Working Group in mid-March and they have met once to twice per week since then. The purpose of this group was to help navigate the COVID-19 pandemic early on and to plan ahead for how we might deal with various scenarios depending on how the situation in Ohio, Columbus and on the Ohio State campus might evolve. It was of upmost importance to engage the incoming first-year students as well as our second and third-year students earlier in the summer to help better inform them of what they can expect when they arrive to start the fall semester. The college has held a number of virtual Town Halls directed specifically to each class as well as college-wide.
“The health, safety and wellbeing of our college community is our number one priority as we head in to this new academic year,” said Rustin Moore, DVM, PhD, Diplomate ACVS, dean, College of Veterinary Medicine. “We are committed to prioritizing the physical and mental health and wellbeing of our students, staff and faculty. Our students’ health and wellbeing are as important as their academic performance. The culture and sustainability of our people is rooted in our foundational health and wellbeing principles and is a critical pillar of our ambition to Be The Model™ comprehensive college of veterinary medicine in the world.”
Incoming first-year students were required to participate in the MINDSTRONG program, an evidence-based cognitive behavioral therapy program, that focuses on improving resiliency and well-being strategies, as well as on-line orientation modules that would have typically been in-person. This requirement was determined based on a pilot study of roughly 70 of our first-year students who voluntarily opted in for this program last year. The study yielded highly significant improvements in depression, anxiety and other markers of mental health. These additional connection points and engagement measures were implemented and are now requirements to keep our students focused, healthy, safe, well, and to enhance communications to prepare them for successfully navigating their rigorous DVM program. First year students are also required to briefly speak to the counselling staff in the first few weeks as part of a wellness check-in to make sure they are adjusting to the program.
The Student Experience
The college is implementing a hybrid teaching and learning model for fall semester with virtual (online) delivery of didactic material/information combined with socially-distanced hands-on clinical instruction for first through third-year students. The Office of Teaching & Learning developed an online module for faculty to follow to develop their online courses based upon best practices. In addition, professional programs staff will be available virtually to assist students. Fourth-year students resumed clinical hands-on learning July 6 after completing eight weeks of virtual and interactive clinical instruction in diagnostic imaging, anatomic pathology, clinical pathology and preventive medicine.
“We are really excited about the students participating in the on-line course work that has been prepared. When students left the classroom in March our faculty pivoted overnight to on-line delivery but without much time to prepare. Our faculty have now spent the summer preparing their courses according to quality assurance measures and have incorporated new technology and new teaching methods. We are very excited to see how the students enjoy working in this new on-line environment and how much it enhances their mastery of the material,” said Emma Read, DVM, MVSc, DACVS, associate dean for professional programs.
Ultimately students will be responsible for activities and assignments throughout the week, however, faculty will be conducting scheduled office hours for students and scheduling in-person assessments so that they can monitor individual progress. Peer tutors will be assigned to each course to help faculty work with students to navigate online materials and student counselling is available in-person or on-line via our two full-time onsite counsellors. Student wellbeing check-ins will be conducted throughout the semester as well as online grade checks to track student performance.
Laboratory learning will be delivered in repeated sessions with small groups (~20 students each) to allow for proper social distancing and all students and instructors will be required to wear face masks and any other appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Because no single space can accommodate the entire class – the college will be using five classroom spaces to spread out the students to achieve social distancing when in-person testing or other activities are required.
When asked how he felt about returning to campus, Max Fernandez, president, class of 2023 replied, “If I'm being honest I am still a bit worried, mostly over factors outside of our control. The virus is still circulating through Columbus and we have to make some tough choices to keep everyone safe. That being said, I have full faith in our college leadership and our community of faculty, staff, and students to keep everyone healthy as we continue our work together. So although I have some anxiety, I'm definitely ready to be back on campus and learning with the plan we have in place now.”
Daily Health Check
A daily health check to report body temperature and health status is required for all students, faculty and staff each day they come to campus or work in the community on behalf of the university. Requiring a daily check of all on-campus individuals helps the university to quickly identify any possible outbreaks from those exhibiting symptoms and move quickly to prevent transmission.
Thermometers are part of the return-to-campus PPE safety kits provided to students, faculty and staff. The kits include one disposable mask, two reusable masks, a thermometer, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer.
Together as Buckeyes, We Can.
With numerous unique considerations that require flexibility to support faculty, students and staff, the top priority of the College of Veterinary Medicine is the health and safety of those returning to campus.
The guidance and policies being communicated throughout this experience are only able to help if we all take personal responsibility to ensure adherence with recommendations, guidelines and policies, and we all remain up-to-date on the changing environment.
We can achieve this in part by properly wearing appropriate PPE, physically distancing when/where possible, following proper hand hygiene, and taking additional precautions, protections and accommodations in unique situations where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
Together as Buckeyes, we will continue to Be The Model™ learning and work environment of choice within Ohio State and the veterinary community through a culture and organizational structure that values, supports and empowers out most important resource, our people.