Presented by Dr. W. David Brunson, Associate Director of ADEA Center for Equity and Diversity (ADEA CED), “Defining Interprofessional Studies and Its Benefits for Academic Dentistry” addressed the call for development of a National Oral Health Plan in the 2000 Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General. The report noted that such a plan would “improve quality of life and eliminate health disparities by facilitating collaborations among individuals, health care providers, communities, and policy-makers at all levels of society.” Dr. Brunson remarked that such a goal will be difficult to accomplish if health care providers have not been trained to work in interprofessional teams; such a process could commence in dental education with the incorporation of interprofessional education (IPE) into the current curriculum.
IPE, as defined by ADEA, is an educational process that provides health professions students with experience across professional disciplinary lines as they acquire knowledge and skills in subject areas required in their respective educational programs. The goal of IPE, Dr. Brunson explained, was to bring various healthcare professional groups together in the educational environment, in order to promote collaborative practice and improved health care.
Dr. Brunson noted the changes to the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) Predoctoral Standards in July 2010. Standard 2-19 now states “Dental school graduates must be competent in communication and collaborating with other members of the health care team to facilitate the provision of health care.” The intent of the change is that students should understand the roles of members of the health care team and should have educational experiences that involve working with other healthcare professional students and practitioners. Standard 2-25 states that “Dental education programs must make available opportunities and encourage students to engage in service learning experiences and/or community-based learning experiences.” Dr. Brunson noted that such experiences are essential to the development of a culturally competent oral health care workforce. This interaction and treatment adds a special dimension to clinical learning experience and engenders a life-long appreciation for the value of community service.
There are current barriers to implementing IPE goals. Dr. Brunson remarked that health professionals are trained in isolation, with long-standing interprofessional and intraprofessional rivalries. A lack of consistent funding streams to sustain such core programs or model innovations also exists, as well as a saturated, disciplined-based curricula. Modifying curricula can be a slow and difficult process with some departmental territories being drawn.
In order to successfully move IPE into the future, there needs to be a shift in the culture of dental education. Dr. Brunson described a few key changes that need to occur, including faculty development, participation in IPE initiatives, curricular changes, and increasing student value. It is necessary to cultivate the skills and experiences of faculty members and to teach and model such behaviors and skills to their students. Administrators and leaders should endeavor for proactive participation in IPE initiatives and activities—and those schools not affiliated with an Academic Health Center (AHC) can partner with community centers. Curricular adjustments necessitate both didactic and clinical changes that occur early in the curriculum and provide connections between oral health and overall health. Student value within IPE should include access, openness, humility, mutuality, generosity, and reciprocity.
Dr. Brunson concluded by stating that if IPE is to occur, dentistry must take the lead and look outside of traditional educational and practice paradigms. He challenged the audience with this question: Will dental education take a bold move forward, or will it simply be business as usual?