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Alum Leading the Way to Interdisciplinary Education

Dr. Pamela Mitchell ’62, Soule Distinguished Professor in Nursing and Health Promotion, is leading a model program for the future that will enable students from across the health sciences to learn and work together to benefit both patient care and the advancement of individual disciplines.

First developed by Mitchell and funded by the University in 1997,HSPICE (Health Sciences Partnerships in Interprofessional Clinical Education) created new educational models that allowed students from the UW Schools of Nursing, Medicine, Dentistry, Public Health, Pharmacy, Social Work and Information to both learn and practice together, including volunteering with community service organizations. (See Connections, Spring 2001)

The new Center for Health Sciences Interprofessional Education & Research, which Mitchell co-chairs with Associate Professor of Nursing Basia Belza, is continuing that effort through a combination of University and external grant funding. Working with deans and faculty from all the health sciences schools as well as the Information School, Mitchell and Belza are leading an effort to bring together health care providers, faculty, students and patients in order to improve quality of health care for patients and communities; develop new programs and approaches; review existing programs; and develop tools for assessing outcomes.

Funding to increase interprofessional student education among the health sciences is being provided by the Macy Interprofessional Bridges Program. A federal grant will develop a curriculum for training faculty in interdisciplinary education in order to improve patient safety in a multidisciplinary workplace.

"Historically," says Mitchell, who also serves as associate dean for research, "the training of health professionals has occurred within the structure of individual programs or schools. Formal curricula or even individual courses that intentionally educate health professionals within interdisciplinary groups are rare." The new program promises to be a model for the future and has spawned inquiries from educators across the country.

Mitchell, who also earned a doctorate from the UW in Health Care Systems Ecology, notes that the increasing complexities of care over the past 15 years have required much more collaboration among health professionals, a trend that she believes needs to be reflected in the ways that students are educated.