Interprofessional Collaboration Benefits ADEA and Its Partners

Dr. Richard ValachovicIn this month’s letter, ADEA President & CEO Dr. Rick Valachovic looks at how ADEA’s ongoing collaboration with our sister associations—in the form of IPEC—is not only promoting the spread of interprofessional education, but also engendering fruitful partnerships and encouraging mutual appreciation between founding organizations, all while benefiting dental education.

It’s always nice to feel that you are part of something bigger than the world you live in from day to day. That is not the main reason ADEA and some of our sister associations formed the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) five years ago, but that feeling is decidedly one of the benefits of our membership in this group.

For those of you who are not familiar with IPEC, the group is a collaborative venture of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM), American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) and ADEA, which came together in 2009 to support the adoption of interprofessional education (IPE). Regular readers of this column know I have devoted large amounts of time and energy to this group, with much to show for that investment.

For starters, an IPEC expert panel, with ADEA Past Presidents Drs. Sandra Andrieu and Leo Rouse representing our Association, created a set of competencies that health professions schools and programs are using as a basis for educational reform and curricular change. Since its publication, Core Competencies for Interprofessional Collaborative Practice has been widely disseminated and is guiding the development of IPE programs across the country.

I recently searched Google Scholar and found that more than 400 publications—in academic journals, books and the popular press—have cited the IPEC competencies. They have also served as a resource for licensing and accrediting bodies and have influenced changes in the accrediting standards for schools of a number of health professions.

Since that time, IPEC has engaged in a remarkable range of activities aimed at disseminating IPE resources and building support for IPE and collaborative practice.

  • IPEC has held six multiday faculty development institutes, bringing together interprofessional teams, both to hear noted experts and to develop action plans to implement IPE at the team members’ home institutions.
  • AAMC, in collaboration with IPEC, has created the iCollaborative, an interprofessional online platform where educators and learners can freely share curricular materials.
  • IPEC’s member associations are founding sponsors of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Global Forum on Innovation in Health Professional Education, which has held three workshops focused on the connections between IPE and collaborative practice.
  • IPEC has also forged alliances with others who can advance IPE, including leaders at the IOM, the Veterans Health Administration, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Health Resources and Services Administration.

Of course, in addition to IPEC’s efforts, ADEA has also taken a number of steps on its own to promote IPE within our ranks. The 2011 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition in San Diego provided members with a multiday immersion in the topic, and many of our subsequent gatherings have explored particular aspects of IPE in depth. We’ve used our member publications to share some of the interprofessional initiatives coming out of our member schools and programs. Not surprisingly, our sister associations have done the same.

Less predictable perhaps are some of the ancillary benefits that have come from this partnership. Over the course of four years of weekly meetings with my colleagues in IPEC and additional planning sessions and special events devoted to IPE, my counterparts and I have discovered that we can also support each other on additional fronts.

By now I hope you know about our partnership with AAMC to make peer-reviewed dental education materials widely available through MedEdPORTAL®. This is just one of several ways we have partnered with AAMC, including last year’s creation of the web-based AAMC/ADEA Dental Loan Organizer and Calculator to help dental students manage their educational debt.

A less visible example of the mutual support IPEC members are providing one another is the invitation I received from the AACN to sit on the national advisory committee of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) scholarship program. NCIN is a national program of the Foundation and AACN.

ADEA is also lending its expertise to the Health Professions Common Application Service Consortium , which provides technical support and guidance to associations like our own with common application services.

ADEA’s increased expertise in IPE is also a welcome resource for our own members as was demonstrated in February, when the California Dental Association asked us to cosponsor a conference in San Francisco on interprofessional education and practice.

Throughout these encounters, I have been amazed by the extent to which our colleagues in the other health professions value our involvement and appreciate the role of oral health in overall health. I don’t need to tell you that, in the past, the oral health professions have sometimes been left out of national health policy discussions. In the case of this group endeavor, we are all making significant contributions. I’ve been especially struck by our colleagues’ embrace of dental education and growing awareness about oral health when the political and market forces creating upheaval within health care and health professions education could just as easily have pushed us farther apart.

As you might have guessed, my appreciation for the other health professions is growing as we interact with each other in transformative ways. I’m impressed by medicine’s willingness to play on a more diverse team, by nursing’s effort to assume more of the responsibility for primary care, and by pharmacy’s achievement in seizing its rightful place as a clinical partner in delivering care. Meanwhile, our colleagues in public health have earned my renewed respect for their persistence in reminding the rest of us that being a health care provider is about more than treating individual patients.

Much work remains to be done before IPE becomes the norm, but we are much closer to that reality today than we were four years ago. IPEC has become a respected thought leader in the educational arena and will continue to play a major role in shaping IPE and the movement to promote and provide collaborative care.

In searching for ways to speed the adoption of IPE, many of us have observed that the commitment of top institutional leaders within health systems and academic institutions is key to creating IPE programs that can be sustained over the long haul. This awareness will drive the next phase of IPEC’s work, with ADEA bringing its expertise in leadership development to the endeavor.

Meanwhile, we can all draw lessons from considering how IPEC has managed to accomplish so much in five short years. The coalition provides a model for what can be achieved when associations unite to address their shared concerns. Those words sound a lot like “the relentless pursuit of strategic alliances”—my mantra during my years with ADEA—and IPEC’s history illustrates the progress that can happen when those alliances are nurtured over time.

The sense of community that develops when a small group of committed individuals pursues a common purpose year in and year out is extremely powerful, and the mutual appreciation engendered can be uniquely sustaining. ADEA is fortunate to have such strong ties with our sister associations, and it has been a privilege for me to witness first hand the benefits these collaborations provide. I am looking forward to our continued involvement in IPEC and to seeing where this collaboration leads us in the years ahead.

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