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Students across campus embrace collaboration


Eight years ago a small group of dental and medical students came together to collaborate and learn from one another around the theme of team-based care. Fast forward to 2014 – that small group has grown to include the majority of the Anschutz Medical Campus health professional students. Now, physician assistant, nursing, pharmacy, medical and dental students work together in the dental clinics as part of the dental school’s Frontier Center.

Funded by Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation, the Frontier Center’s primary objective is to “continue to catalyze changes and create collaborations between dentistry, primary care and pharmacy that will enhance patient care.”

The integration of pharmacy students into other practices is important in their longitudinal experiential training. “These students are in their third year and are almost completely done with all the didactic learning. They are strong on skills and knowledge, and weaker on clinical experience," says Assistant Director of Experiential Programs, Wes Nuffer, PharmD.

According to Dr. Nuffer, “this program challenges them to step into a different clinic environment with no other pharmacy representative there as their safety net. They need to represent the profession of pharmacy and begin to learn how they can complement other professions, as well as gain a better appreciation for other practitioners’ scope of practice.”

The integration of these students with dental medicine has been a tremendous learning experience for the pharmacy students. At first glance, students question just how much overlap there is between pharmacy and dentistry, only to discover a wealth of learning that can occur from the dental profession as well as teaching that the pharmacy students can provide to dental students. “

Whether the pharmacy student is doing a medication profile review, screening for interactions, educating on drug allergies, or learning about concerns specific to the dental field (such as osteonecrosis from bisphosphonates), students quickly identify areas where they can contribute to the dental practice.

“Students from both professions begin to recognize strengths that the other profession brings, and the collaboration is extremely valuable,” says Nuffer. This appreciation carries out into practice, where the pharmacist or dentist may rely on one another when providing comprehensive care to patients.

 “It is important for students from all disciplines to come together and learn. This collaborative approach helps to prepare future healthcare professionals to work as a team to ultimately improve patient outcomes.” Amy Rosinksy, third year dental student

Impressions of a former student and 2014 graduate, Stephanie Dunlap

During the second semester of the third year of pharmacy school we began interprofessional IPPE practices. Although most worked with physicians, a few students had the opportunity to visit with the School of Dental Medicine.

Through these IPPE visits we were able to work with students to help them become more familiar with medications that they frequently see in their patient population. One of the major points we covered was interviewing patients on their medications to determine the best course of treatment. For example, a patient who was on warfarin and dealing with addiction may present concerns with compliance or malnutrition, which would have an impact on their risk of bleeding. By reviewing how this drug was affected by food and its duration of action in the body we were able to prevent an adverse outcome.

We worked closely with the staff who taught us about reading X-rays, oral infectious disease, and provided knowledge of medication concerns experienced by dentists (such as osteonecrosis from bisphosphonates). We were able to see firsthand the effects of misuse of various drugs including anything from “meth mouth” to “aspirin burn.”

Overall, we found these experiences to be very valuable both for our learning and for the dental students. Continuing to collaborate between these two schools will help build interprofessional communications, serve as a tool to expand pharmacist relationships beyond strictly medical fields, and better integrate dentistry into the fold of healthcare providers.