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Health & Wellness

UB welcomes new class of med students to new world of COVID-19

There's a new class of medical students at the University at Buffalo, starting their training amid a worldwide pandemic with little treatment and a high death toll.

"I firmly believe that the students realize that they have not chosen to be in the safest profession in terms of personal safety, that they have to rely on their knowledge of disease and transmission," said Dr. Alan Lesse of the Jacobs School of Medicine.

The 180 new students under his charge are in their second week of the four-year program, just getting their feet in place in a world where most classes are on Zoom because of the safety precautions against COVID-19. Some of the essential classes are in person, including gross anatomy, seeing patients and learning how to do patient history to understand their health.

Lesse said there is a risk/reward issue in what's online and what's on hand.

"If it were just a simple lecture, then the risk clearly outweighs the benefits. But for the procedures that you're talking about - physical exam, history to some extent - that's where the benefit outweighs the risk," he said.

Lesse is an infectious disease specialist and senior associate dean for medical curriculum. He understands medicine in a time of crisis because he graduated from the University of Virginia Medical School and moved into medical residency just as AIDS swept across society, another lethal and, back then, thinly understood disease.

"I can tell you, in the first year or two, until we knew what the etiological agent was, it was quite worrisome for many people to take care of patients and not know how they were acquiring this illness," Lesse said of AIDS. "Well, we had some idea, but it was a sort of slow-moving, worldwide epidemic."

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