Transformative Education
for Health Professionals

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Interprofessional Teamwork in Global Health

Lynn English, Melody Ryan, Maria Gabriela Castro, Jim Ballard,Andrea Pfeifle

“Interprofessional Teamwork in Global Health” is an innovative elective short course for students from health and social professions that blends global health and interprofessionality.  The course combines limited readings and didactic lectures with faculty-facilitated interprofessional team meetings during which students engage in discussing an unfolding longitudinal family case study.  Mixed methods analysis of the course has demonstrated significant changes in students’ perceptions of culture and interprofessionality.  

Full project description: 

Interprofessional Teamwork in Global Health is a short course required for students in Physical Therapy, Physician Assistant, Communication Sciences and Disorders, Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Public Health and Arts and Sciences at the University of Kentucky (UK) who participate in a one-week international health service brigade with Shoulder to Shoulder Global (STSG) Ecuador.  Course activities are designed to expose students to the benefits and opportunities presented by the immersion experience. The curriculum is grounded within the theoretical lens of social constructivism, which emphasizes the critical importance of culture and the collaborative nature of such learning.


Although the course includes traditional content-related educational components such as short readings and brief didactic lectures, the bulk of the students’ experience is spent working in faculty-facilitated interprofessional teams moving through an unfolding longitudinal family case study based on real, yet abstracted clinical scenarios experienced in Ecuador by faculty clinicians.  Although clinical in nature, to increase relevance and motivation for learners, these cases include a broad array of contextual issues likely to be encountered by participants in the brigade. 


Students meet five times in the evenings (15 contact hours total) in preparation for a one-week brigade to Ecuador which occurs in the same semester as the course or in the semester immediately following it.  Class meetings are divided into three parts: 1) preparatory readings are required prior to each class; 2) the first 45 minutes are spent in large group didactics focusing on one of several themes (Ecuador’s culture, society, and politics; environmental health; community engagement and issues of body, culture, and health); and 3) following a short break, the remaining two hours are set aside for students to interact in their interprofessional teams.  As the case unfolds, clinical issues involving the theme from lecture are pulled into discussion.


The course is a variable-credit course with one credit hour awarded for the classroom-based component and one credit hour for the brigade.  Some professions have added an additional credit hour for profession-specific content to prepare the learners for their work in Ecuador.


A mixed methods evaluation of student outcomes associated with the course was conducted in 2013.  The Attitudes Toward Health Care Teams Scale (Heinemann, Schmitt, Farrell, & Brallier, 1999) with eight additional questions developed internally was administered at the beginning and, again, at the end of the course.  Results revealed significant changes in students’ attitudes regarding the quality of care that can be garnered through interprofessional collaboration, their ability to envision the ‘big picture” of health care, an awareness of their own biases toward other professions, an increased ability to communicate with other professions, a-nd increased confidence in working as  members of an interprofessional team.  Qualitative analysis of post course written reflections revealed two major themes, including: 1) students’ decentering, or moving away from rigid adherence to common assumptions based on their own culture and profession, and 2) students’ anticipation of how the experience could transform future practice. 

Photograph: An interprofessional team of nursing, physical therapy, medicine, and interpreter completes a home visit to an 88-year old woman living in outside Santo Domingo, Ecuador.

Lynn English, College of Health Sciences, Physical Therapy

Melody Ryan, College of Pharmacy

Maria Gabriela Castro, College of Medicine

Jim Ballard, UK Center for Interprofessional HealthCare Education

Andrea Pfeifle, UK Center for Interprofessional HealthCare Education





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I think such kind of interprofessional learning setting should be arranged in every colleges of health sceinces