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Interprofessional Education: five years of success from HRSA grant awarded to ATSU-ASDOH

Written by Barbara Maxwell, PT, PhD, DPT, FNAP, professor, university director of interprofessional education & collaboration and Scott Howell, DMD, MPH, ’14, assistant professor, director of public health dentistry and teledentistry.

In 2015, A.T. Still University’s Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-ASDOH) received a $1.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The grant was awarded to fund the project, “Expanding Dental Workforce Training Within Collaborative, Team-Based Care Targeting Federally Qualified Health Centers and Underserved Populations.”

Although the HRSA grant was awarded to ATSU-ASDOH it involved an interprofessional collaboration with ATSU’s Arizona School of Health Sciences’ (ATSU-ASHS) physician assistant (PA) program, School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona (ATSU-SOMA), and the office of Interprofessional Education and Collaboration. Jack Dillenberg, DDS, MPH, dean emeritus, and Wayne Cottam, DMD, MS, vice dean ATSU-ASDOH, associate professor, served as principal investigators for this HRSA grant.

“Over the last five years this grant has provided rich opportunities for countless members of the ATSU community to engage in interprofessional teamwork with a focus on oral-systemic health. Students have been supported in developing their interprofessional collaborative competencies and patients have benefited through receiving effective interprofessional collaborative care that has improved their outcomes. Such actions have ensured the success of this collaborative HRSA grant,” said Barbara Maxwell, PT, PhD, DPT, FNAP, professor, university director of interprofessional education and collaboration.

Please note: This image was taken during an event prior to the implementation of social distancing.

“This grant has allowed all of us to work together to build on an incredible foundation while also developing some amazing new opportunities for our students,” said Scott Howell, DMD, MPH, ’14, assistant professor, director of public health dentistry and teledentistry.

The grant was completed in 2020 but the impacts will continue well beyond the grant project. Here are just some of the accomplishments achieved through the collaborative efforts of those involved.

Curriculum development and educational opportunities

Please note: This image was taken during an event prior to the implementation of social distancing.

“I would say the biggest impact I have seen from our collective collaborative attempts throughout these experiences has been producing and nurturing an unprejudiced mentality within our student body across all different programs. This, in my opinion, has been our subliminal message while we kept the patient’s best interest in our hearts,” said Mindy Motahari, DMD, assistant dean, assistant professor.

Experiences in the ATSUASDOH clinic

“This grant provided numerous opportunities for faculty and students from across the university to engage in interprofessional research. ATSU was well-represented at many national and international professional meetings, where we shared our research findings as well as our model for how to approach interprofessional education. We have also disseminated the outcomes of these activities in the scientific literature. We are grateful to HRSA for supporting our institution,” said Ann Spolarich, RDH, PhD, assistant dean of research, professor.

Community expansion and additional ATSU-ASDOH support

“The dental students have continually expressed to me how much they have learned from the experience because even though they know and understand what they are doing for that comprehensive exam when they are teaching and interacting with PA students, they are learning the content in a whole different way. And the bonus is that the patients have loved the experience as well, having two different health care professionals working with them to take care of their needs,” said Colleen Trombly, RDH, MHSA, assistant professor.

“During my regular clinical observation sessions with [medical] students, I started noticing they were gloving up when they got to the mouth exam and putting their fingers inside the mouth for a more complete exam than I ever learned in medical school. Their ability to be helpful was drastically increased and most of them had more knowledge than many of their preceptors when patients appeared with a mouth problem,” said Ruth Michaelis, MD, HealthPoint Medical, regional director of medical education WA campus, associate professor.

Please note: This image was taken during an event prior to the implementation of social distancing.

Many thanks to all of the faculty and staff involved in supporting the success of this grant including:

From ATSU-ASDOH

From ATSU-ASHS

From Office of Interprofessional Education and Collaboration

From ATSU-SOMA

From HealthPoint

From Sponsored Programs

Acknowledgement and Disclaimer: This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number D85HP20045; grant title Predoctoral Training in General, Pediatric, and Public Health Dentistry and Dental Hygiene; total award amount of $1,736,074; with 54 percent financed with nongovernmental sources. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.

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