Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, medical education in general has been adversely affected. Physical distancing, PPE requirements, and restrictions imposed with respect to group events of all types, had a profound impact on hands-on skills training such as endoscopy. Endoscopy trainers in all parts of the world had to adapt to these changes and restrictions with a variety of measures, such as virtual education/training, utilization of simulators, effective communication with the trainee through the barriers of PPE, and measures to deal with the anxiety experienced by all parties involved in endoscopy procedures, including the nurses and the anesthesia providers.

Several surveys of endoscopy trainees have been published, summarizing their perspectives on the impact of COVID-19 on endoscopy training. So far there have been no large surveys on the experiences of endoscopy trainers and fellowship program directors on the same topic. My co-authors and I felt that it was equally important to gather perspectives of endoscopy trainers and program directors on how the pandemic has affected endoscopy training. Our group, the International Alliance of Academic Endoscopists, is a collaboration of endoscopy trainers from six continents. We thank the Education Committees of the WEO for supporting our study.

Endoscopy trainers and fellowship program directors have dedicated their careers to training the next generation of gastroenterologists, and they share a passion for improving the quality of endoscopy training. This group of gastroenterologists work very hard behind the scenes as advocates of endoscopy training and for trainees, to ensure their trainees get the best possible training while maintaining their safety and wellbeing. Endoscopy trainers and program directors are the bridge between trainees and departmental and hospital leadership and make many sacrifices to ensure that the quality of endoscopy training and the wellbeing of trainees is preserved despite disruptions such as the COVID pandemic.

We feel that, by gathering perspectives of trainers and program directors across the globe, our study fills an important gap in the published literature on the impact of COVID-19 on endoscopy training throughout the world. As the first author of this study, I felt it was very important that the voice of the endoscopy trainer be heard as we continue to adapt our endoscopy training during this pandemic. Our survey highlighted differences in trainee participation between programs in the EU and the rest of the world, and in the support for endoscopy teaching as reported by trainers from the Americas versus programs in other countries. Simulation-based training appears to be currently underutilized, pointing to a great opportunity to enhance endoscopy training during the pandemic. Our survey results provide valuable information that can help us to improve our approach to endoscopy training during the ongoing COVID pandemic, and to be better prepared for future disruptions to endoscopy training.

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Dr Shivakumar Vignesh, MD, AGAF, FASGE, FACG –  on behalf of the International Alliance of Academic Endoscopists