Breaking Down Silos of Learning

The Interprofessional Health Education and Collaborative Care Project

A five-year program is working to transform the way University of Michigan faculty teach more than 4,000 health professional students, with an ultimate goal to impact the patient experience, population health and the cost of health care.

The Interprofessional Health Education and Collaborative Care project seeks to break down existing silos of learning within the seven health science schools at U-M: the College of Pharmacy, School of Dentistry, Medical School, School of Public Health, School of Social Work, School of Nursing and School of Kinesiology. “Current practice is that we train our students within our own school’s walls, and then after graduation we tell them to work with other health care professionals as a team without them ever having interacted with those professionals as students,” says Bruce Mueller, associate dean for academic affairs, Pharmacy.

Project Background

Currently, the more than 4,000 students from the health science schools are taught almost exclusively by faculty from their own units; very rarely do they learn alongside their peers from the other health science schools. Dental, Medical, Pharmacy, Nursing, Social Work, Kinesiology, and Public Health students learning in these educational silos are expected to work in collaborative teams after graduation to provide quality patient care.

Not surprisingly, this suboptimal educational approach has been criticized by the major health organizations (World Health Organization, Institute of Medicine, Institute of Healthcare Improvement, etc.) as an ineffective model for positively influencing the “Triple Aims” of health care: improving 1) patient experience of care; 2) population health; and 3) the cost of health care.

The accreditation bodies for health schools have responded to these criticisms by requiring increased implementation of interprofessional education (IPE) methods as a means to improve the development of more effective collaborative care models. Implementing more IPE experiences seems to be an obvious strategy, but thus far, the barriers to coordinating IPE between seven units have limited U-M’s IPE offerings to small pilot projects led by individual faculty.

The Interprofessional Health Education and Collaborative Care project calls for a transformative change in the teaching culture of U-M’s health science schools which will be managed initially by a central entity endorsed by the health science Deans: the Michigan Center for Interprofessional Education.

Project Description

The Michigan Center for Interprofessional Education plans to initially focus on faculty development as the primary way to transform the culture of health education at U-M into one in which interprofessional course work is commonplace. “Our students’ learning will be enriched by the diversity of perspectives they will experience as part of interprofessional teams of students being taught by interprofessional teams of faculty,” explains Carol Anne Murdoch-Kinch, associate dean for academic affairs, Dentistry.

The IPE Center seeks to fulfill five integrated goals throughout the five-year program:

  1. Create a collaborative culture;
  2. Adopt core IPE curricular competencies;
  3. Develop faculty to teach in innovative IPE learning environments;
  4. Create a unique body of knowledge about the value of IPE on health outcomes and patient satisfaction;
  5. Become a national and international leader in IPE.

The project team believes this plan will help change the culture of health education and practice at U-M, and create a different kind of health care professional. Sustainability of these efforts will be ensured as IPE becomes a regular part of the health science schools’ educational programming.

“The students will have a greater opportunity to interact with each other and learn their strengths. Not only will this result in a broader perspective for caring for patients, but it will make them better members of the collaborative care teams of the future,” explains Frank Ascione, former dean of Pharmacy who is directing the program.

Project Team:

Frank Ascione, former Dean of Pharmacy
Bruce Mueller, Associate Dean of Pharmacy
Carol Anne Murdoch-Kinch, Associate Dean of Dentistry
Jane Banaszak-Holl, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, School of Public Health
Melissa Gross, Associate Professor of Movement Science, School of Kinesiology
Bonnie Hagerty, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies, School of Nursing
Edie Kieffer, Associate Professor of Social Work, School of Social Work,
Rajesh Mangrulkar, Associate Dean for Medical Student Education, Medical School