The opioid epidemic killed 64,000 people in the U.S. in 2016 — more than those killed in motor vehicle accidents before seatbelts were required, and more than died from HIV before antiretroviral drugs were developed. Those were the stark figures Erie County health commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein reports. Although Dr. Burstein provides a grim picture, she also notes that several local initiatives, including more than 3,000 calls received by the county’s addiction hotline and greatly increased training for medical providers, are starting to have positive effects.
“Confronting Opioid Dependence: An Interprofessional Strategy” is the University at Buffalo approach to Interprofessional Education (IPE) that gives over 800 UB health sciences students in 10 different programs of study an opportunity to work together on an urgent public health problem.
“We are dedicated to ensuring that our students graduate from UB as interprofessional collaborators with a strong moral compass and who are able to perform competently on a team to deliver health care that is safe, effective and equitable,” Dr. Patricia Ohtake, assistant vice president for interprofessional education, said in her opening remarks.
The IPE emphasis is a hallmark of health professions education today and is designed to give students in all the professions a chance to collaborate with, and learn from, one another.
Dr. Ohtake says the opioid crisis is a textbook example of a situation that requires a collaborative approach, with many patients requiring care from physicians, dentists, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, public health workers, occupational and physical therapists, lawyers and health care managers.
Students participate in an exercise by breaking up into small, interprofessional teams and spend time discussing specific patient cases and how each of them could use their professional knowledge and skills to contribute to the patient’s care.
The Office for Interprofessional Education is based on strong collaborations between the University at Buffalo School of Public Health, the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the School of Nursing, the School of Dental Medicine, the School of Social Work, the School of Law and the School of Management.
Interprofessional education is required for pre-licensure professional students in these schools.