Interprofessional Education Day puts focus on Indigenous health and medicine

Interprofessional Education (IPE) Day has become an important staple in the curriculum for Schulich medicine and dentistry students. It’s an annual opportunity for students to spend time working with and learning from their future colleagues across the health care spectrum. And much like they will in the future, students worked in teams focusing on unique and dynamic health care cases during the Day. In addition to the team work, small group exercises and case studies, students also had the opportunity this year listen to panel discussions related to effective collaborative patient care.

Moving to a virtual format in 2021, and with more students taking part, organizers were challenged to be creative in their planning. Fortunately, they engaged students from the School’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program to lead the core case study group activities. It was an ideal role for the MPH students who are gaining experience as facilitators, team leaders and will themselves work with large interprofessional teams in their public health careers.

Indigenous health and medicine through an Indigenous perspective was the focus of the learning for the annual event hosted by the SouthWestern Academic Health Network.

IPE Day organizer, Dr. Kevin Fung, championed the focus of the day. Students also welcomed the opportunity to learn more from those with lived experience.

Roxana Militaru, Dentistry Class of 2023, said she was particularly inspired by a presentation made by Samantha Dokis during the event’s discussion panel.

“She gave an excellent talk about the importance of understanding the origin of indigenous culture and customs. I learned a lot from it and I’m really looking forward to more discussions like that in the future,” she shared.

“It really solidified for me that no matter who or where the patient comes from the first step to helping and providing them with health care is, understanding their values so that together you can build a foundation of trust in the patient-health care provider relationship.”

First-time participant of IPE Day, Sukhman Brar, Medicine Class of 2024, also valued the opportunity to enrich his learning about Indigenous health care.

“Indigenous health care continues to be an area that needs to be improved. Health care students should be trained early on about the challenges the Indigenous population continues to face, on an individual and systems level,” he said.

Militaru said that the Grassy Narrows case study stood out as a highlight for the Day. It addressed the social and system determinants of health, and how each of the health care disciplines present at the event played a role in removing access to care barriers. Participating in the group case study helped her to understand the differences between the terminology and methodology used by each profession, while also recognizing the similarities in their foundational principles and goals for patient care.

According to Dr. Fung, role clarification is an important objective of the event; participants not only gain a better understanding of who their team members are in the health care environment, but how to best communicate with each other. With students representing nursing, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physical therapy, optometry, social work and nutrition in addition to medicine and dentistry, this year's IPE Day offered all students the opportunity enrich their collaboration and communication knowledge and skills. 

Brar said that in addition to gaining more insight on Indigenous health perspectives, making lasting connections with students from other health professions, who can offer distinct perspectives on health and medicine as he continues his medical training, was an important outcome of the Day.

His classmate Erik Cassar agreed.

“These events are an excellent way to expose students to the importance of working within interdisciplinary teams. In order to transition more smoothly post-graduation, we need to be cognizant of the roles and strengths of others,” he said.

Several dentistry faculty members volunteered as facilitators at IPE Day, and were integral to supporting students' learning and ensuring the event ran smoothly. Thank you to Drs. Anne Jarvis, Paul Romanson, Selma Saadaldin, Jay Walker, Lesia Waschuk, Amira Abdullsamad, John Suljak, Sarah Al-Shma and Cecilia Dong.