A health professional can serve a patient better if they understand and appreciate how colleagues from other disciplines can enhance that patient’s care.

Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, Calif., wants to make this a reality. The university is in the early stages of developing a unique interprofessional curriculum where students from all disciplines will learn together in the classroom, in small group venues, and in clinical experiences with patients. The goal is for WesternU graduates to demonstrate an understanding of other health professionals and to provide and promote a team approach to patient care and health care management, leading to improved patient care.

“Interprofessional learning enables one discipline to enrich another, and leads to a breadth of knowledge that makes health professionals unique and better equipped to care for people,” WesternU President Philip Pumerantz said.

The Interprofessional Education (IPE) committee is evaluating the steps needed to implement such a curriculum among the existing colleges and those colleges in development. All faculty members, students and other stakeholders are welcome to add their opinions and suggestions to the discussion.

Vice Provost Sheree Aston, OD, MA, PhD, joined WesternU this summer to coordinate the development and the successful launch of this curriculum.

Interprofessional education will allow future graduates to respect and appreciate other disciplines, Aston said.

“If they understand and respect other health professionals and promote team-based health care, the patient benefits,” Aston said.

It’s important that faculty comes up with ideas and ways to implement those ideas, Aston said.

“The faculty is the keeper of the curriculum,” she said. “The faculty is the key to doing this.”

To that end, a series of faculty luncheon meetings are scheduled for Sept. 24-28. In these small groups, faculty members can share their ideas, contribute to and learn more about the initiative.

One important step in the development of the interprofessional curriculum is to provide a forum where people can express their concerns and receive a response so they feel their voice is heard, said College of Graduate Nursing Assistant Dean Diana Lithgow, who is leading the faculty branch of the IPE committee.

Interprofessional activity will not obscure the main focus of each college, Aston said.

“Everybody is going to learn their craft,” she said.

But interprofessional education will require a change in the university’s culture, a breakdown of the silos found at educational institutions and in the health care industry, Aston said.

People know WesternU graduates are caring and compassionate. Having interprofessional skills will provide added value to their education.

“The world is watching us and we want to show them what we can do,” Aston said.

Work stream groups are meeting to develop specific aspects of the Interprofessional Education initiative: Environmental Scan, Preclinical, Clinical, Research, Facilities, Communication, Faculty, Program Evaluation, External Funding and Recruitment/Support Services. If you’re interested in joining a work stream group or you want more information about the Interprofessional Education initiative, e-mail Dr. Sheree Aston at saston@westernu.edu.