Developing an interdisciplinary, community-based education program for health professions students: the Rochester experience

Noelle C Andrus, Nancy M Bennett
Academic Medicine 2006, 81 (4): 326-31
To successfully meet the nation's changing health needs, future health professionals must learn skills in applied health promotion and disease prevention. To achieve these goals, the Center for Rochester's Health (the Center), a collaboration of the Monroe County Department of Public Health and the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and School of Nursing, all located in Rochester, New York, developed an innovative education program that gives interdisciplinary teams of students opportunities to partner with community agencies engaged in research-oriented health improvement initiatives. The Center started this course in 1998, under the auspices of a national initiative supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. The authors discuss the challenges related to the implementation and institutionalization of this interdisciplinary population-based education program. They describe their experiences over a seven-year period, from 1998 to 2005, including the various factors that enabled them to make necessary changes in the program activities and the ways in which the Center was able to bring departments together to consider new course directions for engaging students in the community health improvement process. They discuss the different stages of program development, including the early years of program planning and later curriculum changes that involved the development of an online population health curriculum. The authors conclude that by understanding changes in the education goals of various health professions schools and by adapting education programs to meet the needs of students from these schools, program planners will have more opportunities to sustain community-based education programs.

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