University of AlbertaEdmonton, Canada
18 April 1997
By Dean Jarrett and Lindsay Mason
During a supper time discussion about Vitamin K, a group of medical students were astonished at a third-year pharmacy student's input.
Their surprise convinced them they had much to learn from each other. The students approached two faculty members, Cheryl Cox, pharmacy, and Dr. Philip Klemka, medicine, and recruited two others students to help plan ways to bridge the gap. The result was 50 students voluntarily attending an 8:00 a.m. collaborative session March 25 and the establishment of the Alberta Collaborative Heath Interdisciplinary Learning Initiatives (ACHILI).
The name was chosen wisely. Dr. R. E. Moskalyk, dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, says, "The students through ACHILI have overcome what has been an "Achilles' Heel" for our respective faculties."
In addition to finding a cure for the Achille's heel, the students had also found the perfect name for the project. "Through serendipity we discovered that in Kiswahili, achili means "good sense" says Raheem Kherani, first-year medical student and pharmacy grad. And it does make good sense, he says. "We talk about a team approach during university, but never have a chance to practise it before starting our clinical experience. If we form relationships and collaborative skills now, we can work them into our developing practice skills."
At the March 25 session, students divided into groups of five: two medicine and two pharmacy interviewers with a student from either faculty playing the part of the patient. In one case, the first-year medical students missed something the pharmacy students caught quickly. The "patient" reported an allergy to erythromycin, a very effective antibiotic. The medical students accepted this, while the pharmacy students continued to question and finally concluded that what had
seemed like a drug reaction had really been an upset stomach. Without further questioning, the patient may not have had the benefit of an effective treatment.
Another "patient " recalled having taking a hypertension medication in the past. He described it as little green pills with a name starting with "ind." The pharmacy students had a decided edge in solving the problem.
"When it comes to knowledge about interactions," says Kherani, "Pharmacists are the experts." Drugs and the way they interact is only one part of a medical student's training, he says. While pharmacy students study them extensively, and once in practice can be the first to see the new
literature and hear about new drugs.
Pharmacy students reported being impressed with the amount of detailed patient information doctor's gather. Doctors are also able to do a much more thorough evaluation based on the patient's family and social history.
"Student response was overwhelmingly positive," says Clint Torok-Both, a first-year medical student and one of the organizers of the event. He is the incoming vice-president internal of the Medical Students' Association and Kherani is incoming president. The two say they intend to ensure the collaboration continues.
The dean and their professors are impressed. "Congratulations," says Moskalyk. Such interactions must be facilitated and promoted among students in all of the health sciences."
Dr. David Cook, chair of the Medicine Curriculum Innovation Committee, says " . . . [this initiative] will help all of us to develop the best education for University of Alberta students who are training for a career in medicine or in one of the many related programs in health care."
Instructor Cheryl Cox says the students are definitely on the right track. "Interdisciplinary education is not putting students from different disciplines in the same lecture course. Interdisciplinary education requires the students to interact in the provision of patient care services."
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