We employed 4 major components of change including: expanding the leadership, early engagement of students, scheduling around school activities, and offering a variety of activities.
Changes in SIGN executive committee:
The SIGN executive committee was re-organized as an open-board style executive committee with greater engagement of first and second year students. We created an executive position exclusively for the first and second year students to allow for pre-clinical students to get involved in the group. The board consisted of primary positions of president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, and medical student committee representative. It was expanded with the addition of preclinical years class representative, community outreach chair, and secondary positions for any of the previously listed positions. Each position has their own tasks along with specific events to organize over the year. This kept the members actively involved, didn’t overload any one member of the board, and allowed for a variety of events covering a variety of interests.
Early engagement of students with continued involvement:
We engaged students early with events that introduced students to the field along with the faculty and events that overlapped with multiple interests. Continued involvement was encouraged by providing research opportunities, starting a student run free neurology clinic for the community, and organizing community service events.
For research, we compiled a concise summary of research opportunities with faculty within our institution and research programs at outside institutions. This list was sent to the SIGN chapter email group. Another major project was starting a free neurology clinic for uninsured patients which worked with the preexisting student run clinic at our institution. The neurology clinic is held once per month and consists of teams of one pre-clinical student paired with a clinical student who see patients. The students then present to attending and resident neurologists. We placed a special emphasis on allowing the first and second year students to lead the patient encounter as much as they felt comfortable.
Activities to Pique Student Interest:
A variety of events were held throughout the year to engage students. This first event of the year was an informal event a local restaurant with neurologist representing various sub-specialties.
Interactive labs were held in partnership with local biotechnology companies to provide simulated cases and experiences for students. We were able to work with companies through our faculty to have simulated interventional neurology event. Another event involved practicing botulinum toxin injections and Lumbar punctures. During the events students were able to work with simulations that were brought in by the outside company.
Patient experience panels were held featuring patients with neurologic disorders sharing their outlook and answering questions about their experience. This was possible by working with the faculty at our institution or neurology clinics in the surrounding areas. The Neurologists were able to assess which patients would be interested in speaking with students.
Community service events were held including raising money and awareness for the ALS foundation by participating in the annual ALS walk. We subsequently helped organized a MG walk. We also held a community outreach event at a local daycare center where we taught elementary to middle school kids about being a physician and basic physical exam skills.
To aid in preparation for exams and step 1, we held localization cases in small groups. In addition, we held a video review session covering commonly tested principles. We also carried out various journal club discussions pertaining to issues in neurology. We also had an on-site skills lab to help students learn and participate in an electromyography and nerve conduction studies.
Scheduling around School Activities:
A major barrier of student participation is conflict with other school activities. We scheduled events during lunch hours, in the evenings. Our school employs an 8-week block system with exams at the end. We scheduled activities during the first four weeks to avoid the latter weeks when students focused on exams.
Data Collection and Analysis:
Planned activities were carried out during the 2015–2018 calendar years. The following parameters were compared: student enrollment, activities planned and successfully carried out, Students interested in neurology residency, number of neurology-related research projects with student involvement.
Student enrollment in the SIGN chapter was determined by the students on the email list. Students would sign up to be on the email list during the opening meeting or could email an executive member to be added. The number of students interested in neurology residency and number of neurology-related research projects were determined by informal polling during the various SIGN events throughout the year. The data was analyzed using linear regression with P value of 0.05 considered significant. We assessed whether or not there was a positive linear relationship between the data over time.