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Fear of SARS thwarts medical education in Toronto

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 12 April 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:784
  1. Jocalyn Clark
  1. BMJ

    As the BMJ went to press, the 10th death in Canada from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) was reported in Toronto, and clinical staff and students were being told to continue restricting their presence at the University of Toronto and its teaching hospitals.

    To contain a possible spread of the syndrome from clinical environments the University of Toronto—Canada's largest academic institution—has cancelled some activities involving students in medicine, nursing, pharmacy, dentistry, and physical therapy at its affiliated teaching hospitals.

    Students and staff have been asked to put themselves into isolation if they have had close personal contact with a person with the syndrome and did not wear a mask or if they have visited either of two Toronto hospitals, Scarborough Grace and York Central, which have since closed because of the outbreak.

    Undergraduate medical students have not been allowed into teaching hospitals since 29 March. Students are permitted to attend university lectures and tutorials once they have had no contact with a clinical site for a minimum of 10 days. The “no contact” policy with healthcare facilities will stay in place until at least 14 April, according to the university's website.

    In a release on 5 April to members of the Faculty of Medicine, faculty dean Dr David Naylor acknowledged the frustration that students were feeling about the suspension of their education and research activities but urged everyone to “maintain patience and flexibility for some time still.”

    He said that the university must continue until further notice the restriction of inter—institutional meetings and the maintenance of strict control of access to the teaching hospitals. Dr Naylor also emphasised that there will be no academic penalties for students as a result of the situation.