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Public Health, Medicine, and Dentistry as Partners in Community Health: A Pioneering Initiative in Interprofessional, Practice-Based Education

McCloskey, Lois DrPH, MPH; Condon, Rebecca MPH; Shanahan, Christopher W. MD, MPH; Wolff, James MD, MPH, MAT; Culler, Corinna DrPH, RDH; Kalish, Richard MD, MPH, MS

Journal of Public Health Management & Practice:
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e3182165013
Original Article
Abstract

Context: As public health challenges grow more complex, the call for professional education to be interprofessional, collaborative, and grounded in real world practice has intensified.

Objective: In this article, we describe the development, implementation, and results of one pioneering course at Boston University that aims to prepare public health, medical, and dental students for their combined roles in community health settings.

Setting and Participants: The Schools of Public Health, Medicine, and Dental Medicine jointly offered the course in partnership with 3 community organizations. Participants include MPH, MD, and DMD candidates.

Intervention: The course design integrates the use of “The Challenge Model” (created by Management Sciences for Health) with training in public health consultation techniques (eg, community-based participatory research, logic models, monitoring and evaluation). Teams of 6 to 8 medical and public health students collaborate with managers and staff of a community health center to address 1 organizational challenge and recommend a sustainability plan.

Results: Postcourse evaluations revealed that a cross-disciplinary, practice-based education model is feasible and can meet students' learning objectives and exceed expectations of community partners. We overcame formidable obstacles related to the “silo'ed” nature of academic institutions and the competing priorities within overburdened community organizations. We found that sustained project implementation was attained at some but not all sites, yet all sites highly valued the perspective and contribution of student teams.

Conclusion: Dynamic and replicable, this practice-based education model is adaptable to professional schools whose work intersects in the real world and calls for collaborative leadership.

In Brief

In this article the authors have described the development, implementation, and results of one pioneering course at Boston University that aims to prepare public health, medical, and dental students for their combined roles in community health settings.

Author Information

Department of Community Health Sciences (Dr McCloskey and Ms Condon) and Department of International Health (Dr Wolff), School of Public Health; Department of Internal Medicine, Community Health Unit (Dr Shanahan) and Departments of Internal Medicine and Family Medicine (Dr Kalish), School of Medicine; Department of Health Policy and Health Services Research (Dr Culler), Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts.

Correspondence: Lois McCloskey, DrPH, MPH, Boston University School of Public Health, 801 Massachusetts Ave, Ste 451, Boston, MA 02118 (loism@bu.edu).

The authors thank their community partners for generous support and participation. These include Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Project; Codman Square Community Health Center, Greater Roslindale Medical and Dental Center, South Boston Community Health Center, and South End Community Health Center. In addition, they thank Deans R. Meenan, K. Antman, and J. Hutter from the Boston University Schools of Public Health, Medicine, and Dental Medicine, respectively, for their support of the pioneering initiative, and Leigh Sweet, MD, MPH, for her contribution to the original course design and its promotion. They acknowledge the Maternal and Child Health Bureau Public Health Training Grant (2 T76 MC000017-15) and the Community Health Unit/General Internal Medicine Section/Department of Internal Medicine at the School of Medicine, both of which provided funds to support the participation of organizational partners.

Copyright © 2011 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.