Health professions, law schools team up to help older Kansas Citians with aid of national grant

UMKC LOGOUniversity of Missouri-Kansas City health professions schools — the School of Nursing and Health Studies, School of Dentistry, School of Medicine and School of Pharmacy — and the School of Law were awarded a national grant to work together to advocate for older adults at the Don Bosco Senior Center and Reconciliation Services, both located in medically underserved areas in Kansas City.

By the year 2030, the U.S. population age 65 and older is expected to double, making older adults the fastest-growing group in the nation. Yet the vast majority of curriculum for health professions students does not include specific instruction dedicated to the needs of geriatric health. Designed for UMKC advanced practice nursing and graduate medical, dental, pharmacy and law students, the project will focus on enhancing active listening and empathic understanding in preparing student teams to advocate for older adults.

The National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education, with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the John A. Hartford Foundation, the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation and the Gordon and Betty More Foundation, awarded a two-year, $50,000 matching grant to the UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies. Through matching funds from the partnering schools, this $100,000 project is one of 16 out of 44 universities to be awarded.

“This creative collective breathes new life into our pedagogical approach to educating health professionals,” said Ann Cary, dean of the School of Nursing and Health Studies.

“The proposed initiative will not only help to advance interprofessional education and interprofessional collaboration through bringing together medical, nursing, dentistry, pharmacy and law students, but will also address an important need, which is to increase health and law professional students’ knowledge and understanding of the health care and legal issues experienced by aged individuals,” said Steven L. Kanter, dean of the School of Medicine.

“The project is consistent with the mission of the health professions schools to promote excellence in delivering interprofessional curricular opportunities for students,” said Russ Melchert, dean of the School of Pharmacy.

“The project will improve our graduates’ ability to form relationships with other health care professionals while developing an understanding of the issues facing an aging populace,” said Marsha Pyle, dean of the School of Dentistry.

“The project design, which is to capture the lived experiences of aging and access to care, will serve a diverse elder population, the majority of who come from the lowest economic level,” said Mo Orphin, executive director of the Don Bosco Center.

“This initiative will be an important educational experience for UMKC health and law students, and will benefit our clients through the health education plans that will result from this innovative partnership,” said the Rev. Justin Mathews, executive director of Reconciliation Services.

Titled, Cultivating an Empathic Understanding of Aging: An Interprofessional Approach to Enhanced Provider-Patient Relationships as the Cornerstone of Person-Centered Care, this initiative will accomplish the following goals:

  • Establish a community of practice among health professions and law students to allow for the acquisition of new knowledge through team interaction toward excellence in patient care.
  • Improve provider-patient relationships with older adults by developing health professions and law students’ abilities to capture an individual’s story about aging and the illness experience.
  • Improve acceptance of patients of all ages by sensitizing practitioners to age-based stereotyping that interferes with provider-patient engagement.
  • Increase empathic understanding and collaboration among health professions and law students to foster their ability and willingness to participate in public service as advocates for older adults.

“UMKC and its professional schools are uniquely positioned to focus on issues relating to gerontology across disciplines,” said Ellen Suni, dean of the School of Law. “This project will promote collaboration and recognition of interdisciplinary solutions to health problems while promoting students’ inclination toward public service.”

“We are all readers and translators of the narrative of others,” said Margaret Brommelsiek, principal investigator of the grant at the UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies. “Interprofessional education helps students foster their skills in reading and narrating. The most skilled communicators tell a story that can be understood by both the individual patient as well as those involved across the health professions.”