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SMHS Students Create Guide to Connect D.C. Community to Accurate COVID-19 Information

Every day new details emerge about COVID-19 and how the pandemic is impacting the Washington, D.C., region. In an effort to ensure the local community has access to up-to-date and accurate information, a team of George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) MD students created D.C. COVID-19 Connect, an online guide featuring a host of news links and resources.

“In the midst of this global pandemic, it is critical that accurate information is communicated clearly,” said third-year MD student Harleen Marwah. “This guide aims to be a comprehensive resource … and answers questions ranging from ‘who should get testing?’ to ‘where can I access food?’ During a time of uncertainty, we hope this guide makes it easier for people to stay safe in our community.”

Marwah added that she was inspired to create the D.C.-specific guide after seeing a similar resource created by medical students in New York City. She and other SMHS students pitched the idea to faculty and had the first version out within a week, she noted.

Now, more than 35 students are involved in updating the guide.

“I am proud of our students for stepping up and organizing this,” said Hana Akselrod, MD, assistant professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at SMHS, who is an adviser on the project. “To me it represents the best of SMHS — commitment at a time of crisis, creative thinking, and a real understanding of how important factors outside the hospital walls are in influencing the health of our patients and their communities.”

Third-year MD student Neel Duggal said he joined the project because it allowed him to use experience he gained before medical school as a medical writer working for publications geared toward educating both providers and patients. 

Students spent a lot of time brainstorming what would be most important to include in the resource, he added. 

The guide includes transportation updates in the D.C. area, how to get tested at various medical facilities in the region, where to get reliable news on the pandemic, information and resources for individuals experiencing homelessness, self-care and wellness resources, details on volunteer opportunities, and much more.

“D.C. COVID Connect strives to have a broad reach across the capital,” said third-year MD student Natalie Rosseau. “In the spirit of this mission, we have included community-specific information for some of our most marginalized communities, and are working on translating the guide into several different languages.”

Those translations are currently set to include French, Spanish, Mandarin, and Arabic.

Rosseau added that the guide is updated using evidence-based information from global health leaders, such as the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. “We are also relying on the expertise of the DC Department of Health,” she said. “The content of the guide is reviewed by doctors with specific training in infectious disease before it is released to the public.”

It’s also important for SMHS students to understand the needs of the community in which they live and serve, especially during a public health crisis, added third-year MD student Caylynn Yao. 

“Part of our growing clinical role is being part of the community, knowing their needs and responding to them,” she noted. “For that, I was eager to get involved with this effort as I find my place in this pandemic.”

The D.C. COVID-19 Connect guide is updated daily and can be viewed at