Every Wednesday this past winter, I had the chance to meet with my “dream team.” Nope, this was not an intramural sports league but an interprofessional class with students from dentistry, pharmacy, nursing and social work. As part of the “Team Based Clinical Decision Making” course, we learned about each discipline’s education and scope of practice before working through complex patient cases. Although we might not have professional licenses yet, it was a glimpse into the potential of high-functioning health care teams.
Health care is undeniably a team sport, but health care professional students traditionally learn in silos and often don’t work together until years into our education in the clinical setting. Each discipline has evolved largely independently, creating completely separate curricula, schedules and facilities. However, after every class we were left thinking about the value of learning together and from each other.
Michigan Medicine is working to create more interprofessional opportunities through a range of initiatives in education as well as clinical practice. This ranges from interprofessional (IPE) courses like this one, the Center for Interprofessional Education, team rounds, student groups spanning schools, and changes to the medical school curriculum. To allow for interprofessional collaboration, each school has designated Wednesday afternoons as protected time for required IPE courses, electives or other opportunities.
Although it was a huge class with 320+ students across five schools, the team structure made for a much more personal setting. We were divided into five groups and then further divided into individual teams that we worked with all semester. Each group rotated through modules led by faculty from two different disciplines, which created a unique teaching dynamic. The content included crucial topics that often are not allotted adequate time in medical education, including advance directives, the opoid epidemic, and transitions of care.
My team developed a much stronger understanding of the scope of practice of each discipline, and gained a lot of respect for each other and our respective professions. It was also a unique chance to practice my future role as a physician and better understand the skill set that I am expected to bring to the team. Since I was the only first-year student/med school rep on my team, it was also a valuable reminder to recruit help from my colleagues when needed and be honest about my own scope of knowledge.
There is a lot of discussion about the struggles of health care right now, especially fragmentation of care leading to poor outcomes. This is something I’ve been frustrated with in nearly all of my experiences in health care both before and during medical school. It was refreshing to be able to think critically about these problems through this class and be challenged to approach them with a proactive, team effort. As health care professionals of the future, we have some significant challenges to address. However, I think it is becoming clear that this will be best accomplished by thinking beyond the traditional paradigms of education, care models and hierarchy, and creating health care “dream teams.”
I have always thought it a bit ironic that future physicians often sacrifice their own physical, mental, and emotional health on the path of medical training. How are patients expected to listen to our suggestions when we are too busy to follow them ourselves? I have always been puzzled by this, and it is one of my missions to try to rewrite the rules of what is possible during medical training and beyond.
Endurance sports have been a constant in my life since I was in middle school. I was a runner and cross country skier in high school before competing for the Varsity Cross Country and Track Teams here at Michigan. After graduating I stepped up to marathon distance cross country ski races as well as a few forays in triathlon and road bike racing. I enjoyed each of these pursuits but when I picked up mountain bike racing a few years ago, I was soon addicted and it has since become my forte. After finishing undergrad, I spent several years working and training in Northern Michigan and traveling to races across the Midwest with my boyfriend Alex.
When people would find out I was starting medical school in August, they would express their disappointment that my days of racing were numbered and my best performances were likely behind me. Some even asked, “So when are you not a cyclist anymore?” in reference to the first day of school.
It was my love of the sport as well as a desire to change the accepted norms that drove my dual pursuit of academics and bike racing this fall. It made for a busy few months but the results in both realms were better than I could have hoped for. The time constraints challenged me to focus on quality over quantity in training and studying, an approach that paid dividends both on quizzes and on the trail. The flexibility of streaming lectures as well as flextime quizzing were huge benefits and allowed me to pull this off.
This fall turned out to be my best season of racing yet, culminating in a podium finish at Iceman Cometh – the biggest point-to-point mountain bike races in the country. Iceman is held in Traverse City and 5,000 racers complete the 30-mile course in the morning and then stick around to watch the finish of the Pro race in the afternoon. A large cash purse draws some of the biggest names in U.S. racing, giving Michigan riders a cool opportunity to race mountain bike celebrities head to head.
It was the best moment of my athletic career to enter the stadium area nearly engulfed by spectators, just
seconds away from the leader. I ended up finishing second to a U.S. Olympian and just ahead of the bronze medalist in the mountain bike cross country event in Rio. Since I grew up in northern Michigan and lived in Traverse City before medical school, the community support was amazing. Although I only have a few months of medical school under my belt, this race meant a lot to prove to myself and others that I could indeed be a student, an athlete, and a person.
Although training and racing may seem like selfish pursuits, I truly believe they will make me a better physician as well as a happier person. I also hope to be a role model for busy people trying to prioritize their own health as well as inspire the next generation who may face an even larger chronic disease burden than we do now. These are tall orders, but I firmly believe that more medicine happens outside the clinic than within it.
Thanksgiving break was a much needed reset and now I am looking forward to being “normal” for a while and shifting around my priorities during the off-season. Now it’s time to finish our Renal Sequence strong before winter break!