BREAKING BARRIERS – Interprofessional event brings health sciences students together

At first glance, it looks like a singles speed-dating event in a reception room in the new ECU Health Sciences Student Center.

You hear “Where are you from?” and “Why did you get into medicine?” But listen closer and you find out the event is focused on future health care workers working together.

“Too often educationally and in practice, we operate in silos, medicine or dental or nursing. The goal of this was really to begin to break down those barriers,” said Dr. Timothy Reeder, an associate professor of emergency medicine at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine. He is also the director of ECU’s Leaders in Innovative Care (LINC) Scholars program, which hosted this interprofessional lunch.

The lunch group was made up of 10 medical students, who are all LINC Scholars. They paired off with dental, nursing and physician assistant students and had five minutes to talk about their educational backgrounds and why they decided to get into the field they are studying.

“People from different backgrounds of health care have different opinions of health care and so as a future physician, my opinion is very different from someone else who’s got a dental background or a PA background,” said LINC Scholar Chirag Patel. “So understanding their background and understanding their interest really helps us determine what direction our health care will move in the future.”

The LINC Scholars track aims to give future physicians greater clinical exposure to a person-centered career that includes leadership and change management skills, and interprofessional team-based care.¬† LINC Scholar, Ben Mack, summed up the lunch conversations best when he said, “It really takes a village (to care for) for each patient.”

“Just exploring what we’ve done today, if we had a patient, we would be able to take care of their oral health, the health of their body and we would have support staff,” said Mack. “And I think we would be able to all work together in order to effectively communicate and give the best care that we can to our population.”

Physician assistant student Alexis Gomez said, “I think just the understanding of the importance of the other professions. I think by me learning that now, when I get out into the field, I can really reach out to them when I need help.”

During the debrief of the lunch activity, one student remarked that even though there were future physicians, dentists and nurses taking part, they all were very similar when it came to why they got into health care. First-year dental student, Alexis Webb agrees with that thought.

“Most of us want to be geared towards the mission statement of East Carolina, serve the underserved, rural areas,” Webb said. “But I want to do it in dentistry, and she may want to do it in medicine or nursing.”

Those who took part in the interprofessional activity said they would like to see it happen campus-wide.

“I think that’s one of the benefits of a university. That’s why universities exist, to get people from different backgrounds to share ideas, to share thoughts, have discussions. I think too often on college campuses we’re not doing that, and this is a great opportunity on the health sciences campus and we should be doing this across the university,” Reeder said.

For more information on LINC Scholars, visit