Postbac Students Reimagine Medical School Fair in the Midst of a Pandemic

June 25, 2021

This year’s Columbia University Medical School Fair hardly resembled its predecessors, but proved to be a success nonetheless. 2020’s fair saw the largest attendee turnout in its history for the traditionally one-day on-campus event. This year, however, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic challenged the fair’s organizers to reimagine the event as a virtual affair. “Our aim was to ensure it would be well worth the time of both the participating schools as well as the attending students,” said Meika Folkerts, 2019-2020 President of the Postbac Premed Student Council (PPSC) and host/MC of the event.

In previous years, Postbac Premed students and premedical undergraduates from Columbia and Barnard filled Lerner Hall for a day of meet-and-greets with prestigious medical schools throughout the US and Canada. The team behind the Medical School Fair knew that planning 2021’s fair would prove a difficult task, but the student-led team knew this was a unique circumstance where they could create something entirely new.

The revamped event took place over the course of nearly two months during the Spring 2021 semester and consisted of bi-weekly sessions hosting anywhere from one to four schools. Each session lasted around two to three hours and allowed time for students to attend breakout sessions for more one-on-one attention. “Being able to listen to other student's questions in the Q&A breakout rooms allowed them to learn much more about the schools than they would have during the typical brief interaction at that school's table in person,” said Folkerts.

In addition to increased access to school representatives, the online format also allowed for more interaction between students by creating breakout sessions solely for students to mingle with each other. Additionally, each student had the opportunity to use a Zoom background specifically created for the event to foster cohesiveness and allow students to feel more comfortable in their surroundings.

Julz Greene, 2019-2020 Vice President of Medical School Operation, was tasked with the logistics and operations of the fair as well as with leading the team of student volunteers. “The thing that I reflected on as the final session rolled around was how incredibly resilient we remained,” recalled Greene. “Despite the pandemic and not being sure if we were even going to host the Med School Fair, we managed to push through and create a rather successful virtual experience that allowed us to continue the Medical School Fair’s 20-plus-year legacy.”

Planning for the Spring 2022 Medical School Fair, which is expected to return to its in-person format, is already underway and additional details will be announced on the GS website in the coming months.