These days, health care is a team sport. Team-based care is so important that in 2014, the AOA Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation mandated that all colleges of osteopathic medicine offer interprofessional education. Here’s how three schools are innovating in this area.
At Touro University California, College of Osteopathic Medicine (TUCOM) in Vallejo, California, an interprofessional group of student volunteers runs the Touro Student-Run Free Clinic with supervision from a licensed clinician. Medical students at the clinic have seen firsthand how much value patients get from interacting with different types of health professionals, says Jeremy Mosher, a second-year DO/MPH student and the clinic’s executive director. “When I’ve referred patients to our pharmacy students for medication management or to our public health students for diabetes education, they’ve been able to provide a level of information that I wasn’t able to,” he notes.
When these students enter practice, their interprofessional savvy will give them an edge, says Stacey Pierce-Talsma, DO, a professor at TUCOM. “They’re learning the value of teamwork and how much easier it is to come to a conclusion when you’re working with experts from different fields,” she explains.
At the Family Medicine Institute in Augusta, Maine, third-year students from the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine (UNECOM) in Biddeford, Maine, can complete a six-week core clinical rotation alongside the university’s pharmacy students, treating patients in the clinic and during weekly home visits.
Patients benefit when health professionals provide coordinated treatment, says family physician Andrea Abrell, DO, who works for the residency program. “Our home visit patients like getting to see a physician, but they also really like seeing a pharmacist who reviews their medications, adjusts them if needed and explains what they’re for,” she relates.
Students at the Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (WesternU/COMP) in Pomona, California, spend part of their first year working on case studies in groups with students from seven other medical disciplines. During their second year, they complete online activities to build understanding of each field’s expertise.
John Daliva, MS, OMS III, remembers some tense moments during his case study group’s assigned discussion on physician-assisted suicide. “We all had different backgrounds and opinions,” he says. “But we learned that despite that, we all had the same goal: ensuring the best treatment of the patient.”
In the future, WesternU/COMP hopes to expand its interprofessional education program from two years to four. But the program’s underlying goal is even bigger. “We’re preparing students to be agents of change so they’re able to bring this collaborative culture into their future workplaces,” explains Susan Mackintosh, DO, MPH, an associate dean at WesternU/COMP.