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Leading the charge for interprofessional education

ATSU-SOMA students observe as ATSU-ASDOH students provide dental care.

The lines that divide healthcare professions are blurring. ATSU is working to make interprofessional expertise the norm for the next generation of healthcare providers. This means a dentist may be able to recognize symptoms of congestive heart failure, while a doctor may know how to respond to a dental emergency.

ATSU has long been a leader in promoting student learning across disciplines. In 2016, in recognition of these efforts, the Health Resources and Services Administration awarded the University a five-year, $1.7 million grant to promote interprofessional practice and education (IPE). Since then, ATSU has ramped up its IPE programs to the benefit of students and patients alike. According to Mindy Motahari, DMD, MA, who spearheads ATSU’s IPE initiatives, the grant has dramatically improved program outcomes.

“We’ve seen a transformation in the attitude of our future healthcare providers,”says Dr. Motahari. “They have experienced and embraced effective teamwork and communication. In turn, this has improved patient outcomes. We are building the infrastructure for interprofessional practice by implementing the curriculum that stemmed from this grant.”

The University’s IPE initiative was developed by ATSU-ASDOH in collaboration with ATSU-SOMA and ATSU-ASHS’ Physician Assistant Studies (PA) program. Through the interdisciplinary curriculum, ATSU-SOMA and PA students have the opportunity to visit ATSU’s dental clinic to learn about managing dental emergencies, as well as oral and systemic health connections. In turn, dental students learn to better assess a patient’s overall health, determine when a referral is needed, and communicate with medical providers.

At ATSU, learning is not confined to the walls of the classroom. In addition to its onsite dental clinic, the University works with community health center partners to create opportunities for students to apply their interprofessional skills in the field. These partnerships are a critical component of the IPE program and a focus of growth in the years to come.

“Since we don’t have our own medical clinic, we’re fortunate that our community health center partners have opened their doors to this new experience,” says Scott Howell, DMD, MPH, assistant professor of interprofessional education and teledentistry at ATSU. “We couldn’t do it without them.”

Since receiving the grant last year, more than 100 medical patients have been examined in an IPE setting. So far, patient feedback has been positive.

“The patients get way more attention and care than they expected,” says Dr. Motahari. “They are impressed by the idea and often wonder why everyone else isn’t doing this.”

Because interprofessional collaboration meets the needs of students, patients, and the community, IPE programs have a promising future in whole person healthcare. Guided by a culture of innovation and collaboration, ATSU is positioned to lead this charge.

Image above: ATSU-SOMA students observe as ATSU-ASDOH students provide dental care.


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