Medical and Dental Schools Team Up for Interprofessional Education

Dentistry Today


The Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine (OUWB) and the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry will launch a new interprofessional course to educate medical and dental students on how healthcare professionals collaborate for the benefit of their patients. 

Beginning in March 2019, second-year Detroit Mercy dental students will learn communication skills and patient encounters side by side with second-year medical students at OUWB’s Clinical Skills Center at Beaumont Hospital in Troy, Michigan, where they will interact with trained standardized patients.

“This academic initiative provides us the opportunity to engage OUWB’s values of partnership, collaboration, and teamwork across organizational boundaries. It takes all of us working in teams to obtain excellent outcomes for patients,” said Robert Folberg, MD, Stephan Sharf founding dean, Oakland University Beaumont School of Medicine and chief academic officer at William Beaumont Hospital.

The design of the new joint program allows students to demonstrate and apply the knowledge of their own profession and communicate with each other more effectively, the schools report.

“The collaboration is educationally beneficial since it creates opportunities for the students to learn together and understand how collaborative management of the patient can improve health outcomes,” said Mert Aksu, DDS, JD, MHSA, dean of the Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry. 

“Teaching students collaborative management skills will reduce the impact of the inter-relationship between oral and systemic diseases and will also reduce costs in the long run and improve patient satisfaction,” Aksu said. 

The session topics will vary and include difficult communication issues such as delivering bad news, pain management communication, and intimate partner violence. For example, one of the scenarios involves delivering news of oral cancer to a standardized patient by a medical and dental student team. Faculty from both schools will facilitate these interactions. 

At the end of each session, students will have learned how to deliver difficult news effectively to the patient; describe the types of responses patients and families may have to difficult medical news; and apply knowledge of their own professional role and those of other team members to appropriately assess and address the needs of the patient.

Additionally, students should be able to communicate effectively with the patient and other members of the healthcare team and work collaboratively with students from other health professions to maintain a climate of mutual respect and shared values. 

“An awareness will occur where medical students will begin to understand how oral health can impact the overall health of a patient. Likewise, dental students will look at gum disease and know that a patient may have diabetes,” said Melanie Mayberry, DDS, MS-HCM, Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry. “This awareness will lead them to ask a physician colleague about diabetes treatment.”

Both OUWB and Detroit Mercy agree that this interprofessional course is important and recognize the potential to build on it for students who are in their third and fourth years of medical and dental school.

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