LINC advances interprofessional education to train health care leaders

Interprofessional teamwork will define UT Health San Antonio students’ future careers, and a university-wide effort to prepare them is making huge strides, said Joseph A. Zorek, PharmD, BCGP, FNAP, associate professor in the School of Nursing.

Dr. Zorek is director of Linking Interprofessional Networks for Collaboration (LINC), within the Office of the Vice President for Academic, Faculty and Student Affairs. LINC works to foster connections between faculty, staff and students from health care and scientific disciplines across the schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry and health professions, and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

“At its core, LINC is a university-wide coordination structure that develops interprofessional relationships and consensus to capitalize on the creativity, intellect and talent we have on campus,” he said.

More than 60 stakeholders in LINC’s councils work to nurture interprofessional education knowledge and skills in members of the UT Health San Antonio community, and to integrate high-quality interprofessional education into programs’ curricula.

Each LINC council identifies and pursues goals or projects in conjunction with other councils. In addition, a team of nationally and internationally recognized interprofessional experts comprise the LINC External Advisory Council, which provides perspective, insights and guidance.

“Our early successes demonstrate that large-scale transformation is possible when strategic linkages connect interprofessional networks,” Dr. Zorek said. “The first meeting of our external advisory council in November provided important validation of our approach.”

Here are a few early successes that have impacted faculty, staff and students alike:

·       LINC launched a first-of-its-kind Common IPE Experience for incoming students during fall 2020. Interprofessional groups of three to four students learned about foundational teamwork concepts from online modules completed together and in real-time. Based on health care stories from community members, the modules included video-enhanced lectures, video interviews and illustrated case studies.

·       The inaugural LINC Faculty Development Program launched with 45 participants during fall 2020. Learning tracks were offered in three forms of interprofessional education — didactic, clinical and co-curricular — so participants could customize their learning based on their interests.

·       LINC has awarded $50,509 to support 12 novel interprofessional education projects involving 51 investigators and collaborators through the LINC Seed Grant Program. This small-grants program is offered on an annual basis to foster innovations in interprofessional education.

In spring 2021, LINC will launch the LINC Interprofessional Case Competition, a voluntary activity for small interprofessional groups of students. These groups will collaborate on a solution to a clinically relevant problem while competing for recognition and prize money. LINC also will launch the LINC Writers’ Workshop to help faculty and staff transform their interprofessional education activities into strong, high-impact publications.

LINC stakeholders are already contributing to the national conversation within the field of interprofessional education, Dr. Zorek said. UT Health San Antonio had the highest number of presentations and participants at the annual meeting of the National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education this year. LINC stakeholders contributed 10 presentations, involving co-authors from all five schools. Two manuscripts related to this work are now in peer review. Dr. Zorek predicts this number will triple by August.

“I’m proud of the consensus that has emerged within LINC to approach all projects from a scholarly perspective,” Dr. Zorek said. “We’re doing innovative work, and our colleagues across the U.S. and internationally will benefit from it. Our strong commitment to scholarship will ensure that our impact stretches beyond UT Health San Antonio.”

The Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) at UT Health San Antonio, LINC, was approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools-Commission on Colleges as part of its 10-year reaffirmation of accreditation. LINC was approved in 2018 and will continue through 2028.

Faculty, staff and student participation in LINC’s programs is highly encouraged. Students can participate in the upcoming LINC Interprofessional Case Competition, and faculty and staff can participate in the LINC Seed Grant Program, LINC Faculty Development Program and LINC Writers’ Workshop.

Learn more about LINC here.

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