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Interprofessional Institute Promotes Collaborative Learning

The university is committed to the education and training of health professionals who can work, communicate and lead as members of clinical healthcare teams to build a safer, more responsive, more effective system of patient care.

In dedicating the DeWitt C. Baldwin Institute for Interprofessional Education on May 15, 2014, the university underscored its strategic investment in reshaping medical and health science education through collaborative learning.

DeWitt C. Baldwin Jr., the institute's namesake, a pioneer of interprofessional learning and practice and now Scholar in Residence at the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, was lauded as "the soul, conscience and courage" of graduate medical education by Timothy Brigham, MDiv, PhD, ACGME senior vice president. Brigham credited Baldwin with leading innovations that improved education and safety in residency programs, the institutions that house them and the clinical practice of medicine.

"It was Dr. Baldwin who said, 'Look. See. If you do it together, you do it better than if you do it by yourself,'" Brigham said.

RFUMS President and CEO K. Michael Welch, MB, ChB, FRCP, praised Baldwin for his tenacity in teaching that "health and health care improve when we practitioners, each with our own knowledge, perspective and skills, work together in mutual respect, shared responsibility and decision-making and, above all, open communication.

"It's our desire that the Baldwin Institute and the academics and practitioners, present and future, who contribute to its growth and success, emerge as leaders in interprofessional education and practice to improve the health and well-being of our nation and the world," Welch said.

Located in a newly renovated wing of the Health Sciences Building, the institute is tasked with identifying, developing, managing and evaluating interprofessional educational activities at RFUMS. An initial priority was a redesign of required first year interprofessional coursework, first offered in 2004. Foundations of Interprofessional Practice now includes training in basic TeamSTEPPS – team strategies and tools to enhance performance and patient safety, an initiative developed by federal healthcare organizations. The institute is also working to expand interprofessional education into portions of clinical rotations while forging creative logistical solutions.

"It's about expanding access so that our students in clinical rotations can take advantage of interprofessional interactions that naturally exist in a clinical setting," said Douglas Reifler, MD, vice president and director of the institute and associate dean for CMS student affairs.

Under one iteration, students, wherever they are, may be asked to identify interprofessional interactions through assigned exercises, independent learning and written reflection.

The Baldwin Institute is engaging faculty across the university in interprofessional projects and research initiatives; 20 faculty and students produced more than a dozen papers, posters and presentations for "All Together Better Health," the seventh international conference on interprofessional practice and education held in Pittsburgh in June. Institute staff also presented at the Chicago Simulation Consortium 12th Annual Conference, held in August.

"It's important that the institute not only be a place where interprofessional things happen," Reifler said. "The purpose of the institute is to catalyze and engage faculty from all areas of our university. That's critical. There's no way the university can be leading interprofessional education the way we intend to without engaging faculty and students broadly."

The institute promotes conversations concerning ongoing substantive changes in the way health care is delivered in the United States – from siloed specialties to interprofessional teams that share responsibility for patient care.

"People are definitely taking interprofessionalism in health care seriously," Reifler said. "There's widespread recognition that patient safety and the quality of the care they receive are closely linked to good-working teams. It's an ongoing conversation that we need to promote."

Posted May 15, 2014
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