As a speech lan­guage pathol­o­gist, asso­ciate pro­fessor Therese O’Neil-Pirozzi’s goals are spe­cific: She wants to increase her stroke patient’s verbal expres­sion, word finding, and length of utter­ances. A phys­ical ther­a­pist like assis­tant pro­fessor Pru­dence Plummer-D’Amato wants to help him regain motor con­trol, and a phar­ma­cist wants to iden­tify the best drug therapy to reduce his pain.

Tra­di­tion­ally, clin­i­cians have oper­ated in silos, man­aging a piece of the patient’s health in iso­la­tion. But in the last decade, the trend has shifted toward a more col­lab­o­ra­tive approach, according to John Devlin, asso­ciate pro­fessor of phar­macy prac­tice. The speech lan­guage pathol­o­gist may eval­uate a patient’s ability to swallow med­ica­tions, he said, and a psy­chol­o­gist, for her part, may rec­og­nize and treat post-​​stroke depres­sion and cog­ni­tive dys­func­tion. This, in turn, may improve med­ica­tion adher­ence and improve the ability of the phys­ical ther­a­pist to increase functionality.

Dean Terry Fulmer hosted a panel dis­cus­sion on inter­pro­fes­sional health­care. Photo by Kristie Gillooly.

Terry Fulmer, dean of the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences, hosted a panel dis­cus­sion on the impor­tance of col­lab­o­ra­tion in health­care in the Curry Stu­dent Center Ball­room last Tuesday. The dis­cus­sion was part of the sixth annual Bouvé Inter­pro­fes­sional Research Symposium.

The pan­elists com­prised Devlin, O’Neil-Pirozzi, Plummer-D’Amato, Deb­orah D’Avolio, asso­ciate pro­fessor in the School of Nursing, and John Auer­bach, Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Prac­tice and director of the Insti­tute on Urban Health Research.

The dis­cus­sion focused on how a team approach can lead to improved out­comes for stroke patients, an area of par­tic­ular interest to Fulmer, an inter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized expert in geri­atric health.

D’Avolio, a nurse sci­en­tist at Mass­a­chu­setts Gen­eral Hos­pital, noted that the nurse practitioner’s role is to help patients and their fam­i­lies nav­i­gate the menu of care options.

She helped estab­lish Bouvé’s cer­tifi­cate pro­gram in aging, which edu­cates stu­dents in the core knowl­edge of geron­tology across dis­ci­plines. “We feel that we’re filling a niche here in Boston because it’s an inter­pro­fes­sional cer­tifi­cate and that’s some­thing that hasn’t been avail­able before,” she said.

John Auer­bach spoke at the dis­cus­sion. Photo by Brooks Canaday.

Once the patient leaves the hos­pital, com­mu­nity health workers enter the scene, said Auer­bach, who is par­tic­u­larly inter­ested in the social deter­mi­nants of health and pre­ven­tive med­i­cine. He said there are a number of oppor­tu­ni­ties for the inter­pro­fes­sional team to play a role in the com­mu­nity, noting that clin­i­cians can work as a team “to keep patients healthy rather than simply to pro­vide care when they get sick.”

Shan Mohammed, asso­ciate clin­ical pro­fessor and director of the Inter­pro­fes­sional Research, Edu­ca­tion, and Prac­tice Ini­tia­tives at Bouvé, also spoke at the ses­sion, noting that the dis­cus­sion touched upon the three most impor­tant chal­lenges facing an inter­pro­fes­sional clin­ical team: “how do we com­mu­ni­cate with each other, how do we under­stand what each other’s roles and respon­si­bil­i­ties are, and how do we effec­tively func­tion as a team,” he said. The Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences sup­ports a col­lab­o­ra­tive approach to health­care and research, as demon­strated at the 6th annual Inter­pro­fes­sional Research Sym­po­sium last week.