When the novel coronavirus began in the spring, UT Health San Antonio students were suddenly taken out of their clinical rotations as a precaution. At the same time, the health care work force was stretched thin and there was a need to follow up with patients diagnosed with COVID-19 through UT Health San Antonio’s clinical partner, University Health System, now known as University Health.

“The COVID-19 Virtual Outpatient Clinic (CIVOC) was founded in April 2020 to address the emerging need for outpatient follow up,” said Barbara Taylor, MD, MS, associate professor of infectious disease and assistant dean for the MD/MPH program in the university’s Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine. “At the same time, our students were suddenly unable to continue their clinical rotations and truly wanted to help.”

She said faculty members in the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Office of Undergraduate Medical Education helped the students adapt a secure-data virtual patient follow-up system created by Columbia University Medical Center and New York Presbyterian Hospital to allow student volunteers to call patients and check on them shortly after diagnosis or discharge from the hospital.

The efforts continue today. “Patients with concerning symptoms are referred to an infectious disease attending physician and are scheduled for more frequent calls,” Dr. Taylor said.

Medical student leaders have organized 119 UT Health San Antonio volunteers from across health care disciplines, including medical, physician assistant, nursing and pharmacy students, along with medical residents and fellows. The interprofessional learners participate in weekly learning sessions led by the Division of Infectious Diseases.

“Our faculty educate patients on COVID-19 and how to prevent transmission of the disease and our volunteers coordinate closely with the University Health case management team to ensure that patient needs are met. The CIVOC service has followed more than 5,200 patients and, between July and October, made 7,462 phone calls,” Dr. Taylor said.

“We are very proud of Dr. Barbara Taylor for leading this effort and how she has enabled our students to have an important role during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially during the times they were not able to participate in front-line care,” added Thomas Patterson, M.D., chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases.