COVID19 Limits on Physician Shadowing Harm Undergraduate Students’ Futures

Arenal G. Haut, Elliott R. Haut

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Shadowing is constantly praised as an essential component of an undergraduate student's pre-medical journey, at times even described as “ubiquitous.” Whether a student decides to pursue a career as a physician or a different pathway, students report shadowing as a key deciding factor. For students considering a career in medicine, shadowing is a unique opportunity to understand physician-patient interactions. Shadowing is crucial for students to make professional connections and find physician mentors. In particular, shadowing unlocks opportunities for underrepresented groups, underprivileged students, and women, as shadowing may be their only opportunity to see what a physician does on a day to day basis. The coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused rapidly changing rules. Formal shadowing programs have been suspended and informal shadowing has been prohibited for over two years, and there's no end in sight. We cannot continue on this way. To mitigate this dire situation, we propose the following four specific recommendations. First, allow in-person, undergraduate student shadowing while ensuring safety. Undergraduate students need shadowing experiences, and it is essential that shadowing programs are conducted with proper risk mitigation protocols. Second, enhance and maximize virtual shadowing. True virtual shadowing is technically feasible and could be made available with physicians who are seeing patients via telemedicine. By enabling three-way video calling, students could observe the patient-provider interaction in the virtual setting. Third, fill clinical, front-line hospital roles with student volunteers and/or workers. Students could gain practical frontline, clinical exposure and real-world experiences supporting the medical system during a pandemic. Fourth, recognize the student experiences. College advisors, medical school admissions officers, and medical school faculty need to understand the drastically decreased in-hospital time that current students have had, and all the obstacles that will impede shadowing opportunities for years to come. We owe it to students, current and future physicians, the entire medical community, and society at large to reinvigorate opportunities for shadowing. The pipeline and the next generation of physicians depends on it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1317-1319
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of surgical education
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2022


  • Education
  • Mentoring
  • Shadowing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Education


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