In December 2018, UT Health San Antonio received approval from its accrediting organization, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, to develop institutional infrastructure through which to advance interprofessional education (IPE) and collaboration across all five schools. The university’s accelerated progress in this domain has led to a national award from the Association of Schools Advancing Health Professions (ASAHP) recognizing Linking Interprofessional Networks for Collaboration (LINC), the organizational approach created to do just that.
The 2022 ASAHP Award for Institutional Excellence and Innovation in Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Health Care recognizes excellence and innovation in the following areas: preparation of collaboration-ready health professionals; commitment to outcomes assessment and scholarly dissemination; connection to the institution’s mission and culture; connection to external stakeholders in the community; promotion of personal, community and population health; advocacy for social justice; and initiatives that address the social determinants of health. UT Health San Antonio and Winston-Salem State University, which also received the award, are invited to present at the 2022 ASAHP Annual Conference in Long Beach, California, this October.
LINC, the university’s Quality Enhancement Plan, is a network of strategically aligned interprofessional teams comprised of over 60 stakeholders — administrators, faculty, staff and students from all five schools at UT Health San Antonio — all of whom are dedicated to making sure that IPE and collaboration are permanently woven into the educational fabric of the institution.
IPE powered by teams
LINC’s impact goes beyond programmatic development and implementation, said Jacqueline Mok, PhD, vice president for academic, faculty and student affairs. Rather, LINC is a framework constructed with the active input, insights and participation of the institution’s executive leadership and deans, associate deans, faculty, staff and students from the School of Health Professions, Long School of Medicine, School of Nursing, School of Dentistry and Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.
“When you solidify the administrative and academic infrastructure, anchoring the efforts within the curricula in a manner consonant with each program’s standards, interprofessional education becomes truly embedded,” Dr. Mok said.
As of April 2022, LINC teams have produced 83 manuscripts, oral presentations and poster presentations, 70 of which have already been published or presented.
“It’s amazing for three and a half years,” Dr. Mok said, “yielding remarkable outcomes and output.”
LINC Director Joseph A. Zorek, PharmD, BCGP, FNAP, views the ASAHP award as an important affirmation of LINC’s organizational model, all five schools’ commitment to the program and the hard work and dedication of stakeholders who have contributed to date.
“Our rapid progress highlights the possibilities that emerge when institutional commitment to IPE is coupled with university-wide collaborative infrastructure that empowers individuals to apply their creativity, intellect and unique skills in interprofessional teams,” Dr. Zorek said. “This award, alongside our dedication to scholarly dissemination of outcomes, is elevating UT Health San Antonio as an emerging national leader in health professions education.”
Fostering student relationships to improve health care
LINC programs and projects include a seed grant program to encourage interprofessional collaborative research among faculty, continuing education-style programming for faculty and staff who wish to develop their IPE knowledge and skills, an IPE symposium, a student IPE case competition and the LINC Common IPE Experience for first-year students.
“We intentionally began our educational programming with incoming students, as we wanted to produce a consistent foundation upon which other IPE activities, such as those supported through our seed grant program, could be built,” Dr. Zorek said. “As our programming matures in the years to come, we anticipate the emergence of strong interprofessional relationships and teamwork within our student body, which will ultimately contribute to improved health outcomes for the patients and populations they will serve.”