For the first time in Columbia’s history, on April 5, faculty and students of all health science schools were free of regularly scheduled classes in favor of a day-long interprofessional curriculum.
The Interprofessional Day of Action brought together more than 1,800 students, faculty, and staff from nine schools and programs. Throughout the day, students attended seminars and interactive workshops that conveyed the necessity of teamwork among health care providers and taught teamwork skills.
The day opened with a welcoming message from Lee Goldman, MD, the executive vice president and dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine and chief executive of Columbia University Irving Medical Center.
“Today is important for us, not only as a community, but also for the future of health and medicine,” said Dean Goldman. “We believe in health care as a team sport. We increasingly work together with people who have different training and skills that complement the ones we have, so collectively we make a team that is far better than individuals. I see this event as a ‘first annual’ and as part of our process to bring all of our faculty and all of our students together more often and in meaningful ways.”
The Interprofessional Day of Action at CUIMC was created by Columbia Commons IPE, a group formed by Rita Charon, MD, PhD, chair of medical humanities and ethics at Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. The group grew out of a grant from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation to promote interprofessional effectiveness; when the grant ended in 2016, the deans of all four CUIMC schools funded the group to continue the work.
“Our approach to interprofessional education at Columbia differs from other institutions,” Charon said. “Our narrative approach results in individual-to-individual contact within the context of health care teams.
“We don’t gather to discuss operating room checklists or who does what at the cardiac arrest code. Instead, whether with faculty groups or student groups, we invite participants to grapple with fundamental issues of the human condition.”
During the past few years, Columbia Commons IPE has run programs for small groups of students, faculty, and staff but wanted to reach a wider audience. With Interprofessional Day of Action, participants came from all health-related programs at Columbia: nursing, dentistry, nutrition, physical therapy, occupational therapy, medicine, pastoral care, social work, and public health.
During the day, students attended seminars and workshops centered around a collaborative problem-solving activity on pressing topics such as the opioid epidemic, diversity and bias, health policy, and veterans’ health. Each workshop was filled with a mix of students from different programs, and by working together on a project they learned about each other’s different perspectives.
In a teamwork workshop run by Beth Barron, MD, associate professor of medicine, and Mahlon Stewart, DPT, assistant professor of rehabilitation & regenerative medicine, each student was given a different piece of information about a patient. The activity demonstrates how “everybody has different information, every piece of information is necessary, and all roles are important,” Barron said. “People sometimes feel insecure bringing up information to their colleagues, but people should feel empowered to voice concerns.”
Students welcomed the opportunity to interact with students from other disciplines and break down barriers. “As medical students, we don’t interact very much with students from other disciplines during our daily courses,” said Brianna Hickey, a first-year medical student. “Yet we’ll be expected to refer our patients to other professionals when we start practicing and collaborate with them in a hospital environment.”
Olivia Molineaux, a second-year medical student, emphasized the importance of understanding the expertise of other professionals. “We get in our bubbles very easily; it is good to remember that we’re not going to be the experts on everything and we’ll need input from other people,” she said. “I think all of us would be happy to have days like today as an integral part of our curriculum.”