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Interprofessional Education Symposium highlights growing Ohio University collaborations on health education

(ATHENS, Ohio — Oct. 24, 2014) Reflecting a nationwide trend toward a more team-based approach to health care, faculty and students in Ohio University’s health-centered colleges are engaging in a growing number of interprofessional education and research initiatives.

The most recent is the Interprofessional Education Symposium held Oct. 3 in Grover Center in Athens, co-sponsored by the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and the College of Health Sciences and Professions (CHSP). The half-day event brought together more than 70 faculty and staff members from those two colleges, as well as other areas of campus such as counseling, health psychology, health communications and music therapy, to discuss best practices in collaborative health education.

The symposium featured several national experts on interprofessional education in health care, explored collaborative successes between the Heritage College and CHSP, and examined the hurdles facing such efforts.

CHSP Dean Randy Leite, Ph.D., kicked off the event with a personal anecdote illustrating the need for more coordination in training health professionals. Leite, whose mother passed away in May, said that during the last three months of her life, she underwent 14 medical procedures and had 62 separate interactions with health care providers including a family physician, cardiologist, nurse practitioner, neurologist, pharmacist, dietician and physical therapist, among others.

Though many health professionals were involved, “not a single conversation [occurred] among the providers about my mother’s care,” Leite said, which resulted in costly duplication of services, inconsistent care and confusion among family members about procedures and priorities. “This is one of the biggest problems with health care in America.”

To help address the issue, CHSP and the Heritage College are continuing to find innovative ways to prepare future health care practitioners to work together and to steer faculty toward interdisciplinary research efforts. Kenneth H. Johnson, D.O., executive dean of the Heritage College, said that while interprofessional education efforts are catching on around the nation, “I’m hoping Ohio University students will help lead the way.”

One successful academic collaboration between the colleges is an interprofessional course launched in 2012 through which teams of students from several health disciplines come together at The Laurels of Athens, a nursing and rehabilitation center, to learn about other disciplines while discussing patient care.

The two colleges have also partnered on “grand rounds” learning activities, including one that explored the treatment of a spinal cord injury involving a fictitious Ohio high school football player. Students took away lessons about the role each profession plays in such a case, from stabilizing the player on the field (athletic trainers) to emergency room care (physicians and nurses) to helping with rehabilitation (physical therapists).

Another key interprofessional venture at Ohio University is the Global Health Initiative, a partnership between CHSP and the Heritage College in collaboration with the Center for International Studies. The initiative offers interprofessional certificates and is working toward creation of a master’s degree in global health, as well as educational trips to medically underserved areas such as the African nation of Botswana.

Students also are driving collaborative efforts between the colleges. Interprofessional Students in Health Professions, a student organization launched in fall 2014, draws from all academic units in CHSP, with plans to expand to Heritage College students in the coming year. The organization’s president, Lucas Harrison, a senior majoring in exercise physiology, helped coordinate his organization’s contribution to the Interprofessional Education Symposium.

“We’re working together to develop meaningful out-of-class activities to further promote teamwork among health care professionals, interprofessional communications, as well as learning about health care disciplines and how they are intertwined,” Harrison said.

Beyond academics, faculty members in the Heritage College, CHSP and other campus units also collaborate in a variety of OHIO centers and institutes aimed at improving the health and well-being of people in southeast Ohio. Two of the most prominent examples are the Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute (OMNI) and the Diabetes Institute.

OMNI draws together more than two dozen Ohio University scientists to explore the causes, treatment and prevention of disorders brought on by aging, injury and disuse. Its researchers are currently working with a $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health on a study to better understand the roles that the brain and nervous system play in reduced muscle strength.

At the Diabetes Institute, more than a dozen researchers, clinicians, educators, health administrators and students work together to improve the quality of life for those affected by diabetes and related diseases. Launched in 2012, the institute’s faculty and administrators draw from both CHSP and the Heritage College.

Collaborations between the Heritage College and CHSP are only expected to grow, as both colleges explore ways to weave more interprofessional training into curriculum, recognizing that such interactivity is critical in turning out a well-rounded health professional.

“We’re sending out our third-year students for clinical experiences, and they have to work with a team – nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists,” said the Heritage College’s Johnson. “They have to learn on the job. Are we preparing them the best way we can by making them learn on the job?”

CHSP’s Leite echoed the notion, and he described hearing similar comments from alumni over the past few months. “Alumni tell me, ‘You know, I was taught how to do my job really well. But nobody taught me how to work with these other [medical professionals].’ ”

View a rebroadcast of the Interprofessional Education Symposium at:

  Office of Communication
Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine
210 Irvine Hall, Athens, Ohio 45701
Tel: 740-593-2346 FAX: 740-593-0343
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Last updated: 01/28/2016