Interprofessional Meeting Underscores Importance of Collaboration on Social Justice Issues

By Steven Lane, MA, MPP

Photo Credit: Judit Peter

The four-person volunteer and staff PAEA delegation at the January 26 meeting of the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) is a sign of the Association’s strengthening commitment to interprofessional education, already a core aspect of the profession. President Michel Statler, CEO Mary Jo Bondy, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer Monica Miles, and Senior Director of Leadership and Organizational Development Kendall Mealy all represented PAEA at IPEC’s virtual winter meeting last week, which was focused on the theme of “Advancing IPE for Health Equity & Social Justice.” PAEA became a member of IPEC in 2016.

“As health care becomes more and more team-based, and focused on population health, it will be increasingly important for PAEA to connect with our colleagues in other health professions through these collaborative forums,” Statler said. “It was so helpful for us to be at this table and contribute to this critical work.” Interprofessional education is a requirement of the Standards of Accreditation, which state that “program curriculum must prepare students to provide patient-centered care and collegially work on collaborative medical teams in an interprofessional environment.”

The keynote address by Michael Spencer, PhD, “Achieving Social Justice and Health Equity,” focused on Spencer’s research into structural racism in a Native Hawaiian community, the difficulties community members experienced accessing health care, and the resilience of community. A social worker, researcher, and Native Hawaiiian, Spencer made a compelling case for tailoring health interventions to specific populations and the importance of understanding the needs of communities. “You can’t just put a feather on your intervention and call it ‘Native,’” he said. This message resonated strongly with the PAEA participants.

“Dr. Spencer really connected the impact of social and environmental factors to our health and well-being,” Miles said. “As a DEI researcher and advocate, it reminded me again how important it is to tackle problems of racism and inequality in health care in a collaborative way. We can’t do this work alone; it needs to be interdisciplinary and anchored in the communities we seek to serve.” (To learn more about PAEA’s new CDEIO and her approach to collaboration, read this Q and A.)

In preparation for this meeting, with its specific focus on health equity and justice, PAEA prepared a summary of its recent work in this area, including the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Toolkit and Best Practices resources developed by staff under the leadership of the Diversity and Inclusion MAC, and the faculty and student town halls that PAEA held in the wake of George Floyd’s death in May.  “Other organizations were definitely interested in our outreach work through the town halls,” Mealy noted.

Both diversity, equity, and inclusion and interprofessional education will be critical priorities for PAEA in the coming years, and this conference showed how closely intertwined they are. Faculty with an interest in IPE have a number of ways to learn more and get involved:

The IPEC Core Competencies are due for review and revision very soon and IPEC will be looking for faculty across the health professions to work in a workgroup. Indicating your interest in IPE through your member profile and membership of the IPE PLC will be helpful if you would like to hear more about this opportunity in the near future.