New Interprofessional Teachers Bring Expertise and Insight

Dr. Kennedy facilitating the Core Principles of Interprofessional Practice Session #2 with students

By Shelley Wong

Our interprofessional education program continues to grow and welcome new faculty teachers. We spoke with Kai Kennedy, PT, DPT, Katherine Gruenberg, PharmD, and Mia Williams, MD, MS to learn more about their work and why they are a part of interprofessional education.


Kai Kennedy, PT, DPT, associate professor of physical therapy and rehabilitation science, joined UCSF in 2018 and brings experience and expertise spanning community engagement to global health (In photo: third from left, Dr. Kennedy facilitates Core Principles of Interprofessional Practice Session #2 with students.)

“I aim for the profession of physical therapy to represent the society it serves and to provide optimal care for its people,” she said. Dr. Kennedy is deeply committed to issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in professional and academic spaces and at local, national, and international levels. She leads programs that provide rehabilitative care in underserved communities in the United States, the Caribbean, and West Africa. For the past seven years, she has brought students to Haiti to work with nursing students as well as help build its emerging physical therapy training.

“Interprofessional education, practice, and collaboration are critical parts of addressing health disparities and achieving health equity as a society,” said Dr. Kennedy.

As a new interprofessional faculty teacher this quarter, she has enjoyed facilitating interprofessional education at UCSF: “In small group sessions, students can delve into questions, misconceptions, and assumptions of one another, as they are developing their professional identity. I love being a part of a learning space with students from multiple disciplines who are open to understanding their colleagues so they can optimize the health care team, draw on each other’s strengths, and provide the best care for patients and communities.” 

She is excited to make UCSF a model program for IPE and is interested in developing patient cases as well as experiential and learning opportunities where students can see other team members in action. Dr. Kennedy says, “Being a physical therapist in a prestigious academic medical center provides a unique learning experience in thinking about health equity. Others see physical therapy as a luxury rather than a necessity. Our program can help speak to the needs and challenges of our populations, especially the underserved, to think about their broader needs.”


Katherine Gruenberg, PharmD, assistant professor of clinical pharmacy, is a clinician-educator who specializes in infectious diseases and has a deep interest in sustainability. As a UCSF alum (’15), she draws on her own interprofessional training as a student in approaching the classroom as a teacher.

“I remember having a session where everyone shared their perspective about how they would engage with a patient and having this feeling of enlightenment about how the interprofessional team would work together in the future and how we can leverage the different expertise of professionals to provide really great patient care,” she says. “I hope to bring the same spirit to students early on in their training so they can see that they are each an important part of the medical team.”

For her work in integrating sustainability into the pharmacy curriculum, she has received the UCSF Sustainability Award twice – in the student category as a resident in 2017 and as a faculty member in 2018. She has developed coursework that examines sustainable practices in drug development, distribution, use, and disposal and has presented her work at national and international conferences.

“It has been rewarding to discuss and show how climate change impacts health and bring in people from different fields to encourage students to be informed, aware, and ideally, advocates in climate-informed healthcare,” says Dr. Gruenberg. She coordinates a sustainability elective through the School of Pharmacy that has since become interprofessional, involving collaborators in the schools of Dentistry and Medicine.

Dr. Gruenberg is a recent recipient of a 2019 Mary Ann Koda-Kimble Seed Award for Innovation, with funding to support research on characteristics of student preparedness for advanced pharmacy practice experiences. She will coordinate a series of focus groups to identify characteristics of emotional and cognitive readiness. She also received a grant to study whether an automated computer chatbot can be used to support knowledge retrieval for interprofessional students via social media.


“The work I’m doing in interprofessional education started out of being interested in how we work as a team - the feeling that no one person or provider is going to be able to give the wraparound care that our patients need,” says Mia Williams, MD, MS, assistant clinical professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine.

Dr. Williams began facilitating interprofessional groups as an internal medicine resident at UCSF and joined the faculty in 2018. Currently, she is working with medical students as they begin their final year of medical school (career launch) to re-center the focus on the practicality of interprofessionalism as they move into sub-internships. “I’m enjoying connecting with learners and connecting learners to each other,” she says.

Dr. Williams is particularly interested in chronic disease management, preventive care, patient-centered medicine, and Latino health. Her teaching work includes serving as a preceptor for residents and medical students in the UCSF Internal Medicine clinic. Within the Division of General Medicine, Dr. Williams has been involved in remodeling the clinic with a focus on interprofessionalism as part of care. She says, “We are co-located now with our MAs and licensed vocational nurses, and are trying to do things with less redundancy and more communication. Maria Wamsley and I are working on getting grant funding to help facilitate more teaching around huddles and interprofessional communication, with the hope that this will enhance our patients’ care.”

“There’s a real hunger among the professional students for this learning,” she continues. “The communication skills and self-reflection that the IPE curriculum brings to them are really instrumental and often leave them feeling like it resonated more than they expected it to. I’m hoping there are more ways to build that in, such as bringing all the professional students back together as they are embarking on their different clinical rotations, to reinforce this learning.”