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On collaboration, interprofessional education group walks the walk

November 02, 2015

By Kimber Solana

Interprofessional Education logo
Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of ADA News articles on interprofessional education, a teaching model that emphasizes a need for students from different health care professions to learn and work together to improve the quality of patient care.

While a number of organizations recognized and tried to address the evolution of interprofessional education (IPE), one group continues to thrive in spearheading the advancement of IPE around the country.

“We came together with the understanding that the future of health care was going to be collaborative in nature,” said Dr. Richard Valachovic, CEO of the American Dental Education Association, “We realized that the way health care was delivered would be changing.”

Photo of Dr. Valachovic
Dr. Valachovic
Dr. Valachovic is president of the Interprofessional Education Collaborative, or IPEC, which formed in 2009 as a leading voice in promoting and encouraging efforts that would advance interprofessional education.

Along with ADEA, the founding members of IPEC are the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine and Association of American Medical Colleges.

Their goal: to prepare the health care workforce for team-based care. And from providing resources to creating core competencies, for the leaders of six leaders of IPEC, it’s important they also practice what they preach.

‘Laser focus’

Although there’s literature about interprofessional team-based care going back 40 years, a number of things are occurring today that’s prompting the need for IPE — from market forces to health care reform. IPE is a teaching model, though it varies by institution, that educators around the country say is becoming more necessary as health care reform continues to reshape the future of health care delivery.

Of course, the six members of IPEC weren’t the only ones to recognize the evolution of IPE. There were other organizations that included IPE in their platforms and goals, said Lucinda Maine, Ph.D., executive vice president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.

“What really set the IPEC work apart was its 100 percent laser focus on building the capacity to deliver interprofessional education across all health care professions,” she said. “We’ve never been distracted almost seven years now by the extraneous.”

In May 2011, IPEC published its report, “Core Competencies for Interprofessional Collaborative Practice.” The document identified individual-level core competencies needed by all health professionals to provide integrated, high quality care. It acts as a guide for many health profession schools when developing or updating their curriculum.

Today, the group continues to provide and introduce new resources on better integrating and coordinating the education of health professionals to provide more collaborative and patient-centered care.
Providing resources

Last month, on Oct. 7-9, the organization held its ninth Interprofessional Education Collaborative Institute — one of the resources IPEC has created to advance IPE.

The institute, held about twice a year, provides health professions faculty a dedicated time and space to learn and consult with experts and peers on IPE. Learning objectives include identifying resources and commitments necessary to facilitate IPE at an institution; examining best practices curriculum planning and design; creating strategies; implementing faculty development; and learning how to communicate IPE objectives to decision makers.

More than 30 teams, each consisting of three to five members representing at least three disciplines, attended the latest institute. About half of the teams were from institutions or schools that has previously sent a team to the institute.

Others come to get guidance in launching their IPE programs.

Three years ago, the University of Michigan sent an interprofessional team to the IPEC Institute to study and learn what was going on at the national level. This year, the Michigan School launched its first interprofessional education course involving about 300 students from the schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy and social work.

In addition to the IPEC Institute, the organization has developed several other resources on interprofessional education. They are:

  • Peer-reviewed publications: With funding support from the Macy Foundation, went live in December 2014. It offers free open access to a broad array of credible, peer-reviewed education modules intentionally developed for interprofessional learning.
  • iCollaborative: The MedEd Portal Web page also offers iCollaborative, a forum-like page for non-peer reviewed content for IPE staff to find and communicate best-practice ideas.
Photo of Health professions faculty at the Interprofessional Education Collaborative Institute in Herndon, Va.
Team building: Health professions faculty attend the Oct. 7-9 Interprofessional Education Collaborative Institute in Herndon, Va. More than 30 teams, which consisted of three to five members representing at least three disciplines, attended the institute.

Expanding IPEC
IPEC grew from conversations, usually involving only two or three of the founding members, said Dr. Valachovic.

“The six of us, as chief staff officers in our respective organizations, had known each other personally and had worked together before,” he said. “It was natural for us to come together.”

Dr. Maine
Dr. Maine
Dr. Maine agrees. “Our work together on this really almost exemplifies what we’re suggesting to our members that they should be doing on campus — work with a diverse set of players, create trusting relationships, put in time and resources and get projects done,” she said.

In the beginning, she said, it was important to keep the number of founders small.

“There had been a whole flurry of activities and conversations among other organizations but none were sustainable or sustained,” she said, adding that one effort to address IPE convened 50 different organizations.
“It was just too big for action to begin,” she said. “Too many cooks.”

However, starting in 2016, IPEC will begin offering other groups the opportunity to become affiliated with IPEC. By doing so, it can lead to identifying unmet needs and creating new program opportunities.

IPEC is establishing a new membership category of IPEC Institutional Members. These will be open to associations and other organizations whose missions include the advancement of quality of education for one or more disciplines in the health-related professions. Representatives from the Institutional Members category will be able to serve on IPEC’s program committees.

“There are obviously other professions that are in the IPE world and not just the ones we think of naturally such as social work and law,” Dr. Valachovic said. “These professions have roles to play.”

“I think we felt we had to get out of our adolescence as an entity before we could expand our circle,” Dr. Maine said. “We don’t want to fail. We know that our work will influence practice, or at least that is our passion.”

For more information on IPEC, visit