Workshop provides opportunity to dream big about interprofessional health science education at Emory

Most health professionals have not played with play-doh, popsicle sticks, and pipe cleaners since pre-school, but those were the tools they used to create prototypes for interprofessional educational (IPE) programs during the recent Reimagining Health Science Education: Design-Thinking Workshop.  

The workshop — hosted by the new Woodruff Health Science Center (WHSC) Office of Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice (IPECP); The Hatchery, Center for Innovation; and the Emory University School of Medicine — was the afternoon component of Emory’s first in-person Medical Education Day since 2019. The Oct. 24 event brought together faculty, staff, students and clinicians from Emory’s three health professional schools and Emory Healthcare to participate in 12 interprofessional teams.  

“Our goal was to bring together faculty and students across all of our schools to dream about what IPE should and will be at Emory, and we were thrilled with the interest and engagement in this workshop, which was our office’s kick-off event,” says Jodie Guest, co-director of the WHSC Office of IPECP and vice chair of the Department of Epidemiology in Rollins School of Public Health. 

Guest opened the workshop by introducing the Office of IPECP and challenging participants to be visionary when conceptualizing IPE ideas for Emory. Shannon Clute, director of The Hatchery, and Ben Garrett, The Hatchery’s innovation programming and operations manager, followed her introduction by providing an overview of the design-thinking or human-centered design approach. 

“We find that human-centered design is broadly applicable, and especially helpful in situations where you’re not starting from a place of total clarity on the nature of the problem in question or the needs of your target audience,” Clute explains. “By putting people at the center of the process, and defining problems from their point of view, there is a greater likelihood of developing on-point solutions.”

Building relationships

The real fun began when teams designed their IPE program prototypes using pre-school supplies. Teams had one hour to define, brainstorm and build their IPE prototypes. Teams then displayed their designs, fielded questions from each other about their ideas, and voted on four award categories – Most Rational, Sign Me Up, Most Viral and Long Shot.  

A common theme emerged during the presentation phase: foster meaningful ways to bring health professional students, residents, faculty and clinicians together to both train and develop relationships with each other.  

Team ideas centered on a few priority ways of learning together: share a collective physical space to train and build an interprofessional community; actively engage in the community with interprofessional teams; create new case-based curricula for interprofessional student teams to work collaboratively in simulation labs; and support an easily accessible list of courses that are open to any student enrolled in Emory’s three health professional schools. 

Workshop participants and organizers left excited about the future of IPE at Emory. 

“The afternoon design-thinking workshop was an interesting and beneficial way to bring stakeholders from the Woodruff Health Sciences together to brainstorm how we can create IPE programs that will teach our students how to skillfully work in interprofessional teams whether they are working in community, classroom or clinical settings,” says Maha Lund, planning committee chair for Medical Education Day and associate professor and program director of the Emory Physician Assistant Program.

Linda Lewin, professor of pediatrics at the Emory School of Medicine and director of the Woodruff Health Educators Academy, agrees. “The workshop provided a great opportunity to learn more about the design-thinking approach and how we can apply it to health professions education,” Lewin says. “It was both fun and energizing to work in an interprofessional health team to brainstorm and create a prototype of a program that I think would be useful to students across the whole health sciences center. I can’t wait to see how the Office of IPECP uses the ideas the 12 teams generated — there is so much potential for IPE growth at Emory,” 

Garrett notes, “The Hatchery team was so impressed with the engagement and innovative thinking on display during the workshop. There are innovative thinkers through the WHSC, and it’s always a treat to bring them together for collaborative work.”

“This was exactly what we hoped this workshop would do,” Guest says. “We were able to see clear themes generated by our students and faculty together. When 12 independent teams coalesce around three priority themes — common space on campus, active engagement as teams to support community health needs, and classroom time together — we know where there is excitement about the future of IPE at Emory. Our office and advisory committee will now explore the proposed ideas and determine which ones we can develop and implement in both the short- and long-term. It’s an exciting time to think about IPECP at Emory.”

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