PIPE Kick-Off: Building Connections for Healing

On October 19, PIPE Director Maria Wamsley, MD, opened the annual IPE kick-off on Zoom with a thank you to faculty for their contributions to this year’s curriculum and welcomed learners to UCSF.

Leadership from the schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy and the Physical Therapy program spoke to the value of interprofessional education and practice and gave learners words of wisdom to carry on their journey.

SON Associate Dean Maureen Shannon, PhD, CNM, FAAN, highlighted IPE’s focus on communication and using the foundations of learning to inform one’s approach to care, leading to a more multifaceted view of complex health issues. With this lens, providers have a better understanding of the social inequities and health disparities that impact a patient’s ability to maintain their health.

Focusing on collegiality, Physical Therapy Chair Amber Fitzsimmons, PT, MS, DPTSc, said, “It’s OK to ask for help amongst your colleagues, no matter who they are.”

This comfort level requires a lot of vulnerability, humility, and curiosity, and leads to great benefits. Fitzsimmons said, “Your professional journey is going to be fully, fully enriched, your burnout will be less, your resiliency will be high, and your job satisfaction will be tremendous when we all just give up the need to be perfect and really welcome the curiosity and input from all of our colleagues.” She encouraged learners to be themselves, enjoy the journey, and make new friends.

Photo: Anastasiia Sapon

In his keynote address, sociologist Howard Pinderhughes, PhD, spoke from the perspective of community practice and the members of a community, who are served by UCSF healthcare providers. He said, “Communities play a critical role in the promotion of health of individuals and families.”

Pinderhughes came to the Bay Area in 1981 from Boston and deepened his work in the community related to issues around violence and its impact. This evolved into understanding the scope, depth, and the importance of trauma for people in underserved communities, especially for youth. Trauma can stem from a single incident, but is ongoing for many who live with the everyday threat of violence, injury, and death.

Helping affected individuals manage their health and well-being also includes addressing trauma resulting from structural violence and structural racism. Economic and social structure, social institutions, relations of power, privilege, and inequality and inequity can cause harm to people and communities by preventing them from meeting their basic needs.

“Community trauma is the impact of chronic adversity across a community,” says Pinderhughes. “As you try to treat patients, their symptoms of trauma get in the way of them being able to make the types of changes in their behavior…necessary to promote their own individual healing, wellness, and resiliency.”

Pinderhughes underscored the need for an informed, multi-pronged approach to serve vulnerable communities, combining sources and approaches to address health and wellness. This includes providing quality healthcare, changing health behaviors through education, improving the physical environment, and impacting socioeconomic factors.

“To promote wellness, we need to have a more holistic approach to the body, mind, and community...so we’re looking at not just the physical wellness…but understanding that the environmental, emotional, financial, social, spiritual, occupational, and intellectual factors are all part of promoting wellness and creating a situation where people can achieve their best health and live long and thriving lives,” he said. Pinderhughes noted that healing may take place outside of a health institution or a hospital; it could be in a community center or in a healing circle.

He urged students to “learn the most that you can about your particular discipline, but...learn and understand your patients and their communities, and the aspects of their communities that make a difference in terms of promoting their health and wellbeing – and learn what aspects of their lives and communities that contribute to some of their risks for different illnesses and disease.”

“In order to be the best possible health care provider you can be, you need to make connections across the different disciplines to be able to provide the most excellent care you can. But ultimately what that’s going to do is improve the life trajectory and well-being of your patients. It’s also going to enrich and improve your professional life and your ability to do the work you want to do.”

Addressing the current pandemic and the health professionals working under pressure, Pinderhughes closed with this message: “Our strength and resilience as professionals comes from our ability to connect up with one another and hold each other up as we provide the care that our patients and our community deserve.”