USC University of Southern California

Team Spirit

By Stella Chung ’16

The Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC participated in an Interprofessional Education Day on April 7 for nearly 800 students from dentistry, occupational therapy, and other health care fields to prepare them for collaborative patient care.

Interprofessional Education (IPE) refers to occasions when professionals from different disciplines interact to learn from and about each other. Currently, only about 20 U.S. medical schools—including Ostrow—have incorporated IPE into their curricula.

The significance of IPE has slowly but steadily risen since its introduction. As an indicator of its growing reputation, the World Health Organization organized a study group on IPE and collaborative process in 2007.

The Interprofessional Education Day—mandatory for first-year dental students—encourages early interaction with other disciplines and is merely a stepping-stone for the advancement of IPE. Participating students came from the programs of medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, physician assistant, physical therapy and occupation therapy.

“Combining different health professions presents us with the true condition of the patient especially when the systemic conditions have oral manifestations,” explained Monica Abdelshahid DDS ’15. “By working interprofessionally, we get to focus on health aspects outside of dentistry.”

Associate professor Phuu Han DDS ’12 agreed. By getting a well-rounded grasp of medical issues and practicing collaborative care, students are prepared for comprehensive patient-centered health, she said.

Assistant Clinical Professor Jeremy Teoh highlighted the importance of taking this holistic approach to health care. He pointed out the geriatric population in particular, which is at a greater risk of dental decay as a result of reduced salivary production—a side effect of medications. The reduced salivary flow and increased level of acidity make elderly patients more prone to cavities.

“Consultations and working together with both medical and pharmacy fields in such a case can aid in providing solutions to address or alleviate these specific problems,” Teoh said.

Growing support for IPE is evidenced by the variety of programs now available to Ostrow students. The school has teamed up with Los Angeles County + USC Adult Protection Services Geriatric Clinic; Ostrow students rotate through the clinic and gain a medical perspective on geriatric care.

“These interactions will allow all members of the participating teams to draw connections and solutions in forming and providing more appropriate and integrated care for the benefit of our patients,” explained Niel Nathason, associate professor.

In addition, students can take the Interprofessional Geriatric Curriculum elective in which select dental students collaborate with students in other fields to demonstrate their scope of practice on residents at various senior centers.

As part of IPE development, students have the opportunity to shadow physicians, optometrists and nurse practitioners at the John Wesley Community Health Center in Skid Row. A similar program is slated to be launched at the USC Dental Clinic at the Union Rescue Mission, which serves downtown Los Angeles’ homeless population.

The School is also currently in talks with the USC School of Pharmacy to allow pharmacy residents and students to rotate through Ostrow clinics. And Another potential new partner is the USC School of Social Work, which can shed light on the social implications and repercussions for not addressing oral health care.

“The future is IPE. Patients are more aware now than ever and having other health care professionals involved is a must in order to give your patients the appropriate information,” said EvaLina Josefsson DDS ’15. “After participating in IPE training, I can say that I am confident in what resources my peers can offer to patients.”