Looking for the Institute's First Triple Play: Get Your Eye on the Ball!

Feb 23, 2012



The Boston Red Sox are in Florida for their spring training.  They are making preparations for the 100 year anniversary of their home,  Fenway Park.     While they are focusing on this important celebration, we all know that their “eye is on the ball.”  They are looking ahead to doing everything that they can to win the upcoming season.     Attention to the birthday event inspires and brings attention to their story.   Simultaneous attention to the coming baseball season is what it’s all about.  The history, the party, and the story of what has come before inspire the next step.   This history lifts up the season!


This Red Sox story is a model for where we, the MGH Institute of Health Professions, are headed.  This year, 2012, is the 35th anniversary of the Institute!  During the fall term we will celebrate this important birthday for the IHP!   At the same time three important themes are emerging as being distinctive and important areas of focus for our future.    These include Interprofessional Activity and Competence, Inclusive Excellence and Multicultural Competence, and Active Learning as foundational to entry level education.      In the coming weeks, this blog will focus on each of these themes in more detail.   


Interprofessional Teaching and Learning: Interprofessionalism  has a long history at the Institute.   When our founders described the Institute in their original planning, it was this concept of health professionals working together that was at the forefront of their thinking.  As the Institute changed locations (four times?), grew in size from a few students to now almost 1200, and added and subtracted programs of study it was this interprofessional concept that has been central to the thinking.     In the 1970s and 1980s, there was not much national attention on health professional education and so the Institute was one of the few organizations with a deliberate commitment to the topic of interprofessional studies.    Today, we have a new Center for Interprofessional Studies and Innovation that will soon be the home for two new interprofessional academic degree programs and also for our prerequisite courses.  We have launched, with our partners at Mass General, a new interprofessional dedicated education unit, where a small number of our entry level students from all of our disciplines learn together and from each other.   We are beginning to plan for a new multidisciplinary community focused clinical model.   These “real world” opportunities are reinforced by the monthly Schwartz Rounds, the annual Interdisciplinary lecture,  common coursework in ethics, and our new “Changing Courses II” teaching fellowship.  


Inclusive Excellence and Multicultural Competence:    Inclusion of historically underrepresented groups  in the health disciplines and competence in delivering care to everyone continues to be a major national, local, and Institute theme.   Our disciplines continue to have broad underrepresentation by ethnic, racial, and linguistic minorities.   Health disparities are well documented in the way that the poor and certain minority groups benefit from the health system.   Issues of mistrust, under-and over-diagnosis of health problems,  low health literacy, and access based on social and economic status  continue to reduce quality and outcomes,  drive cost to an unaffordable level, and also to drive critically important moral and ethical questions.     The Institute’s Diversity Committee led by President Bellack,  has developed a model of inclusive excellence and a set of expectations regarding our progress in welcoming a diverse group of faculty members, students, and staff.    Equally important, the committee has  provided guidance regarding the competencies that are expected from every IHP graduate!     


Active Learning and Entry Level Education:  Development of critical thinking, problem-solving, case studies, critical observation, and reflection are well documented approaches to successful adult learning.    These active approaches need to be intertwined with sound theoretical, principled content knowledge.    In traditional graduate education, the approach has been to present the latter (content knowledge) first in lectures and readings, provide some critical reasoning tasks in exams and occasional discussions, and to leverage the more “active” components to practicum or other field experiences.    As we realize that the potential content for almost any of the content matter that we teach is limitless; that the old strategies for learning that focused on memorization and repetition do not produce sustained access to information; and regardless of what we teach today, the shelf life of content is quite short.     Our Committee on Teaching Excellence (CTE) has active learning on their agenda and continues to make information available to us that informs and drives our competence in this arena.    Our instructional support group in Instructional Design, Information Technology, and Library are working together to support our educational efforts.  Most notable, last month the Institute opened remarkable new space designed for active learning at 2 Constitution Center. 


So, these three key themes are in our focus for the coming years.  Our eyes are on the ball.   As we look to our 36thyear we need to perfect our ability to teach and learn together in an interprofessional context, while maintaining distinctive and excellent disciplinary knowledge.  We all need to be sure that every student feels welcomed, served, supported, inspired, and enhanced by his or her experience at the MGH Institute.   We need to also be certain that when an entry level student graduates from our programs that they know how to care for those who come from a variety of cultures and backgrounds, especially the poor or otherwise disadvantaged.   And we need to engage in ongoing discourse about how we will teach  using the best methods to improve learning and ultimately to impact practice.


Over the next several weeks, this blog will include a bit more in-depth information about each of these topics.   I am inviting some of our colleagues to write guest contributions on each of these topics.  My hope is that this work can provide an important framework that benefits your teaching and scholarship.


Keep your eye on the ball!




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