Virtual Observership in Pediatrics (VOP) Program

April 30, 2021 by

by Dr. Debbie—Ann Shirley and Dr. Sarah Boggs, VOP organizers

This spring, several faculty members within the Department of Pediatrics worked together to create an initiative called the Virtual Observership in Pediatrics (VOP) program to provide educational opportunities to undergraduate students interested in learning more about a career in medicine.

How did the idea to start VOP come about?

Visitor restrictions enacted by the Medical Center during the COVID-19 pandemic to help protect patients and team members made it challenging for students to find clinical shadowing opportunities. We were particularly concerned about the impact this lack of access and exposure to shadowing experiences may have on minority students, and we wanted to find a way to address this. With the help and support of the Department of Pediatrics Equity and Inclusion Committee, the VOP was born! We put together a planning committee (including undergraduate student leadership) and developed a range of experiences.

What did the VOP program involve?

The VOP program ran from March to April and was fully interactive.

  • There were 8 weekly one-hour sessions of “virtual rounds,” covering an array of topics from general and specialty pediatric medicine to journal club to social determinants of health
  • Students could sign up to observe telehealth patient encounters in partnership with the Division of Developmental Pediatrics and also in Lactation Medicine
  • Both the Teen Health Clinic and Lactation Medicine offered additional electives for students
  • 15 undergraduate students participated, most from UVA but also local community colleges and even an out-of-state participant
  • Around 20 Pediatric Faculty were involved in developing the program and delivering content to the students
  • The program was wrapped-up by an outstanding group of UVA medical students and pediatric residents who fielded questions from the undergraduates about the nuts and bolts of medical school and careers in medicine

What was your favorite part of VOP?

This has been one of the most rewarding experiences we have been involved in during the pandemic. It was heartwarming to see how readily colleagues volunteered to share their time and experiences. The students were fully engaged and eager to absorb all that we had to offer. They asked such insightful questions. This generation has an impressive awareness and interest in social issues in medicine. They give us so much hope and inspiration for what the future holds!

What are the next steps for VOP?

The program was so successful that we are discussing repeating it again in the future, even as observer opportunities are beginning to open back up within the medical center. Students unanimously agreed that they would recommend the program to a friend. There are so many ways to expand, and the virtual format would allow us to reach out to other colleges and universities that do not have an affiliated medical school.

Who would you like to thank?

We are so grateful for the other members of the VOP committee!

  • Ann Kellams, MD
  • Shakun Gupta, MD
  • Matt Thomas, ScM
  • Irene Mathieu, MD
  • Jeannean Carver, MD
  • Michelle Adu-Darko
  • Gauri Raval, MD
  • Sana Syed, MD
  • Lisa Hainstock MD
  • Emily Gonzalez, PhD

Thank you to the division of Developmental Pediatrics for helping with Telehealth visits!

  • Rich Stevenson, MD
  • Jenniffer Herrera, MD
  • Valentina Intagliata, MD
  • Ken Norwood, MD
  • Beth Davis, MD
  • Elizabeth White, MD

Thank you to the Katie Heck, RN and the UVA Breastfeeding Medicine Program!

Thank you to Susan Gray, MD and the Teen Health Eating Disorders Clinic!

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