Western University of Health Sciences faculty and administrators are taking a leadership role in moving interprofessional education (IPE) forward on an international scale.

WesternU Vice Provost Sheree Aston, OD, MA, PhD, is the United States’ co-chair of Collaborating Across Borders (CAB) V, the premier North American IPE conference taking place Sept. 29 to Oct. 2, 2015 in Roanoke, Virginia.

The conference theme is “The Interprofessional Journey: Advancing Integration and Impact,” which reflects the importance of integration and impact as they play a role in the preparation of future health professionals. Anne Godden-Webster, MSc, Interprofessional Experience Coordinator at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, is the Canada Co-Chair.

CAB V is the fifth conference for Canadian and American interprofessional health educators and administrators. The conference is held every other year, alternating between Canadian and American cities. Dr. Aston served on the program committee for CAB III and on the executive committee for CAB IV.

“It’s just a good way to make sure WesternU is in the conversation,” Aston said. “It’s a ton of work. But I think that it’s the fastest way to make sure that we keep WesternU at the table to know what’s going on, and to have the opportunity to participate in all kinds of things.”

Aston is serving a three-year term on the American Interprofessional Health Collaborative Board of Trustees. Comprising the American Interprofessional Health Collaborative (AIHC) are individuals and organizations committed to influencing a more positive future. As institutional and program leaders charged to ensure the integrity, viability, and quality of education and training programs, as leaders of policy-setting organizations and agencies committed to assuring health in all policies, and as leaders in systems impacting health and care delivery, AIHC transcends profession- and organization-specific boundaries, according to the AIHC website.

“We advocate for and advance the alignment of the interprofessional educational programs; the importance of interprofessional health care delivery; and the research programs that facilitate examining these education-practice linkages towards better outcomes for health and health care,” according to AIHC.

Dr. Aston is on the editorial board for the Journal of Interprofessional Healthcare. The journal is published by the National Academies of Practice.

WesternU IPE leaders are holding webinars, presenting at conferences and mingling with other IPE leaders. Aston and WesternU Director of Interprofessional Education Research and Strategic Assessment David Dickter, PhD, gave a presentation, “Measures and Results from an Ambulatory, Interprofessional Team OSCE Project” as part of AIHC’s Interprofessional Webinar Series.

Aston and WesternU Director of the Interprofessional Education Program John Tegzes, VMD, MA, DABVT, also gave a presentation as part of AIHC’s Interprofessional Webinar Series, “An Institutional Case Study: Providing Interprofessional Education at a Satellite Campus.”

Dr. Tegzes is a regular speaker on assessment for the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC), which brings together six national education associations representing allopathic and osteopathic medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy and public health. IPEC provides leadership around national initiatives to advance interprofessional education and share information on IPE best practices and collaborative practice innovations.

He moderated a workshop on collaborative care for the Institutes of Medicine in Washington, D.C., appears widely to speak about patient-centered, collaborative care, and has given several keynote addresses at national conferences. He has spoken to professional groups representing nearly all disciplines at WesternU. He is also a board member of ASPIRE, a program that recognizes international excellence in education in medical, dental and veterinary schools.

“Patient-centered care is the core focus of interprofessional education. It is all about focusing on the patient, improving health outcomes, and enhancing the quality of care provided by all the health professions,” Tegzes said. “One Health is also a primary focus of our IPE curriculum, and includes examining the interactions of humans, animals and the environment, and improving the health of all three.”

Additionally, Dr. Tegzes serves on a national committee examining professionalism among all the health professions. He was appointed by the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges to represent veterinary medicine in studying interprofessional professionalism.

“It’s a way of being in the circle, so others you don’t know become aware of what WesternU is doing,” Aston said. “It widens our circle of collaborations. This helps with the brand name recognition of WesternU.”

“We are getting more well-known,” Aston said. “We have one of the largest IPE programs in the U.S.”

The first phase of WesternU’s IPE curriculum brings together first-year students from all WesternU programs in a problem-based learning course where they learn about scope of practice, communication, collaboration, teams and teamwork in health care and One Health. Students from all nine professional programs at WesternU’s Pomona, Calif. campus work in interprofessional teams to find solutions for providing high-quality and safe patient care.

The second phase focuses on written communication, and utilizes interprofessional consultation requests as a means to better health care and better health outcomes for all patients, human and animal. Portions of the third phase, which is under development, will provide simulation and clinical experiences that enhance the quality of patient care, and that provide solutions to safety issues in patient care.

Osteopathic medical students at COMP-Northwest in Lebanon, Oregon, work with public health, pharmacy, nursing, and medical assistant students from Oregon State University and Linn Benton Community College.

Recognition for WesternU’s IPE accomplishments is nice, but the ultimate goal is to move IPE forward, Aston said.

“It’s trying to advance the field and build collaborations along the way,” she said. “Otherwise you’re behind the pack.”