Better Healthcare

Winter 2013
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by Kris Gallagher

Call it speed dating for academia. On Feb. 1, more than 70 faculty members from DePaul and Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science sought like-minded partners at a retreat on DePaul’s Lincoln Park Campus. At stake: A share of $500,000 to be awarded to new research projects co-led by investigators from both universities.

Jointly led research is just one of the ways that collaboration is flourishing between DePaul and Rosalind Franklin, which announced their Alliance for Health Sciences in October.

“What’s really gratifying to me is to see how faculty are gravitating to [the retreat] and finding these common grounds,” says Phil Funk, associate dean for external relations for DePaul’s College of Science and Health, who helped lead the alliance initiative. “If we get the faculty working together, that’s going to help develop new curricular opportunities and new opportunities for student research.”

Retreat organizer Joanne Romagni, associate vice president for research at DePaul, thinks the retreat may generate as many as 20 proposals, five times what she expected.

“People from all over the academy are interested. It’s not just science and health. We have faculty members who are from [the colleges of] Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, from Communication, from [Computing and Digital Media], from [Business]. It’s really far-reaching,” she says.

She’s particularly fascinated because researchers at most universities tend to silo themselves within their departments. “So for us to have this cross-college, interdisciplinary approach is really exciting.”

Surprising partners

Beth Catlett agrees. Last year, Funk connected Catlett, an associate professor and director of the women’s and gender studies program at DePaul, with Arthur Cantos, associate professor of psychology at Rosalind Franklin. Along with Julie Artis, associate professor of sociology at DePaul, they study violence between intimate partners and the effectiveness of treatment programs, but from two different theoretical camps–feminist/gender-based models and men’s mental health approaches.

“It’s really ineffective to have these two approaches in such competition,” Catlett says. Together they’re writing a manuscript arguing that both models should be taken into consideration. They’ll be submitting a research proposal.

So will Don Martin, who sees three initial areas for faculty from DePaul’s Master of Arts in health care communication program to collaborate with Rosalind Franklin: doctor/patient communication, communication among members of the health care team, and communicating health to underserved or marginalized populations. “This is right up our alley,” says Martin, who developed the graduate program as associate dean of the college.

The pipeline flows both ways. Linda Mast, an associate professor with Rosalind Franklin, taught a health care literacy course at DePaul this winter. Martin also is recruiting Rosalind Franklin faculty to serve as guest lecturers. “The beauty of this curriculum,” he says, “is that it provides the appropriate combination of theory and professional application by people that are on the cutting edge, working with patients.”

Crash courses

A man lies dazed and bleeding after a car crash. The paramedics arrive and the first question is: What exactly is a paramedic?

Patrick Knott, associate vice president for Academic Affairs with Rosalind Franklin, used this fictitious victim to explore a wide range of health careers with DePaul undergraduates majoring in health sciences during the winter quarter. He offered to revise his graduate-level course on that topic for undergraduates because “many students would really benefit from that information earlier on [in their education].”

“We’re talking about all the different health care professionals that this patient would run into,” says Knott, who adds that many students focus on medical school because they’re not familiar with other health careers.

The care of ailing “patients” is also the focus of the new simulation labs in DePaul’s School of Nursing. The labs feature both high-fidelity computerized mannequins and exam rooms with “standardized patients”–trained people who follow a script as students practice their skills. Students will face challenges in intensive care, pediatric, obstetric and emergency response situations. Lab director Marcia Stout says she got valuable advice from Jim Carlson, her counterpart at Rosalind Franklin, while designing the lab. That was just the beginning.

“Dr. Carlson and I are discussing interdisciplinary simulations,” Stout says. “We plan to have ‘Sim Wars’ with students from our master’s entry to nursing and nurse anesthesia programs and from Rosalind Franklin.” Teams from multiple disciplines will work together to tackle crisis intervention scenarios. “Students will really learn about effective teamwork as well as patient safety and appropriate interventions,” she says.

Academic teamwork

The 3+ curricular programs, a central component of the alliance, are moving briskly through the academic review process, Funk says. The streamlined programs enable qualified students to complete their undergraduate prerequisites in three years at DePaul and then apply to graduate programs at Rosalind Franklin. Students complete their baccalaureate requirements at Rosalind Franklin and emerge with degrees from both universities. The programs shave off a year of college–and corresponding tuition and expenses–so students can begin their careers sooner.

“For kids who are really driven and really focused and know exactly what they want to do, these will be good tracks,” says Knott.

DePaul students may apply beginning this summer for the Doctor of Pharmacy program, which is already approved, Funk says. The Doctor of Podiatric Medicine program also is nearing approval. The curricula for the remaining four programs–medicine, physical therapy, physician assistant and pathologists’ assistant–are in preparation and expected to be available within a year. In addition, DePaul will be offering its master’s entry to nursing practice degree program on Rosalind Franklin’s campus beginning in the fall.

The alliance also is enriching experiences for all DePaul undergraduates interested in the health care field. Enhanced career exploration, opportunities to shadow health professionals, undergraduate research opportunities and regular interaction with health professionals from Rosalind Franklin all make students better prepared–and better able to document it.

“When our students are applying for professional programs, they’ll have letters from Rosalind Franklin faculty as well as DePaul faculty,” Funk says. “It will help our students create a richer application wherever it is they want to go.”

For more information about the DePaul and Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science alliance, visit alliance.depaul.edu.