May 22, 2009

Competition set to hone students’ teamwork skills

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Bettina Beech, M.P.H., Dr.P.H.

Competition set to hone students' teamwork skills

The Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance wants students to remember one important piece of information when they graduate: health care is a team issue.

The Alliance is seeking to drive home that lesson during its first-ever Interdisciplinary Clinical Case Competition (ICCC), set for September. The contest will pit three teams of students from eight disciplines against each other in a race to solve a complex clinical case.

“The point is to show students from a variety of disciplines what is difficult to teach didactically,” said Bettina Beech, M.P.H., Dr.P.H., associate professor of General Internal Medicine and Health at Vanderbilt. “When you are training in graduate school, you are often isolated. Because of the demands of the curriculum you typically have minimal opportunity to interface with other disciplines. This student competition is meant to be a real-world example of how health care and related issues need to be addressed from a multidisciplinary perspective.

“This kind of competition really helps students engage with one another and develop a social network, and also to appreciate the depth and perceptions that each discipline has to offer,” Beech said.

The ICCC is modeled after the longstanding event held at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in Houston. The inaugural competition is part of the Gala Celebration events highlighting the 10th anniversary of the Alliance.

Beech, a member of the 1994 winning team in Houston, brought the competition idea to Nashville in 2006 when she joined Vanderbilt, where she is also director of Health Disparities Research at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and director of Public Health Research and Evaluation at the Diabetes Research and Training Center.

“As a student, it made a huge impression on me,” said Beech. “Although I was in a public health doctoral program, working with other disciplines and seeing how they addressed a problem was invaluable. It really taught me that there are many ways to look at a problem and come up with a solution.”

The teams will be made up of nine students from disciplines including Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Nutrition/dietary, Public Health, Law and Social Work from both Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt programs. Students must be nominated by a faculty member. Deans from each school/discipline will nominate representatives to serve on the team.

All teams will be selected by August and given the rules of the competition. At that time, the clinical case history of the “patient” will be announced to all three teams. Each team will be provided rules and deadlines. The final presentation/jury announcement is scheduled for Sept. 23 at the Kresge Building on the Meharry Medical College campus.
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