Student pharmacists participate in interprofessional program, tearing down health care silos

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The following story and photos were published by The Tennessean newspaper on Saturday, Nov. 13.
To see this story on The Tennessean Website click here.

From labs to libraries, Nashville's colleges share resources

By Jennifer Brooks • THE TENNESSEAN • November 13, 2010

Vanderbilt is a teaching hospital for more than just its own students.

There's a social work major from Tennessee State University taking a patient's medical history. A graduate student in Lipscomb University's College of Pharmacy checks prescriptions, while a Vanderbilt University medical student shadows a resident as she makes her rounds.

First-year Vanderbilt medical student Andrew Wu examines Riana Chowdhury as her parents, Goutham and Anindita Chowdhury, watch. Vanderbilt opens its health center to students from other Nashville universities.
Dwight Adkins, 2, waits for first-year medical student Jason McNeal of Lipscomb University to examine him.
Medical student Jason McNeal of Lipscomb examines Dwight Adkins, 2. McNeal appreciates the way the inter-professional fellowship at Vanderbilt is breaking down traditional barriers between medical professions.

Vanderbilt medical student Andrew Wu, left, Lipscomb medical student Jason McNeal and Vanderbilt nursing student Alli Gold share some experiences at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.


It's an innovative new program that draws students from multiple disciplines — doctors, nurses, pharmacists and social workers in training — and teaches them to work together collaboratively, across disciplines and across campuses.

"It's a really humbling experience," said Andrew Wu, a first-year medical student at Vanderbilt. He's learned that the social work majors have a lot to teach him about helping patients cope with the health-care bureaucracy, just as the pharmacists can help him avoid drug interactions.

There's a reason they call Nashville the Athens of the South. The region is crowded with universities and colleges, public and private. And the walls between campuses aren't as high as you might think.

Belmont and Lipscomb, sports rivals on the field, share athletic facilities between games. Fisk physics majors cross over to Vanderbilt to use its laboratory equipment. Community college students consult advisers at neighboring universities.

At almost every school in the region, students and faculty shuttle back and forth, teaching and studying on one anothers' campuses, sharing facilities, partnering for joint grants and generally stretching their resources as far as possible at a time of limited budgets.

Trevecca Nazarene University has no nursing program of its own. Instead of going through the expense and effort of developing a new major, students can take nursing courses on Belmont's campus while still earning a Trevecca diploma.

At Lipscomb University, pharmacy professor Paige Aikers spent Wednesday afternoon on the Vanderbilt medical campus, overseeing her pharmacy students at the clinic and helping out with the new collaborative learning program.

"They have a huge infrastructure and they're doing a lot of research. It puts our students right in the mix," she said. Lipscomb's pharmacy graduate students and faculty also use Vanderbilt's research facilities.

Academic funding tends to reward universities that work together. The National Science Foundation has awarded more than 228 grants to Tennessee universities in recent years, and a growing number of those awards are going to collaborative efforts: the University of Tennessee's multi-university partnership to analyze census data; renovating and equipping the science laboratories at TSU — laboratories school officials say nearby universities also use.

Jason McNeal, a Lipscomb pharmacy student, appreciates the way the inter-professional fellowship at Vanderbilt is breaking down traditional barriers between medical professions.

"This is the direction health care needs to go," he said. "We're breaking down the silos."

The fellowship also is breaking down the traditional boundaries between universities. McNeal says he sometimes ends up studying at the Vanderbilt library, rather than back at Lipscomb.

"It feels like a second campus to me," McNeal said.