Students from different health professions join forces to create an interprofessional pandemic playbook

Three students on research team
Students Elisabelle Bocal, Michaela Myerson, and Katie Santanello

Five strangers from different health professions programs, brought together randomly to conduct student research, have now presented their research at three national events.

It is a prime example of interprofessional education at its best. Something the University of New England takes pride in.

“It is a strategic priority of the University to engage students and to enhance their research and scholarship opportunities,” commented Shelley Cohen Konrad, Ph.D., LCSW, FNAP, professor in the School of Social Work and CECE director.

It started when a call went out for UNE students to enter an interprofessional competition called the Pandemic Plan Challenge, which was created by Sandra Schipelliti (Pharm.D., '22) and sponsored by the Infectious Disease Association within the School of Pharmacy and in collaboration with the Center for Excellence in Collaborative Education (CECE).

“It was an interprofessional team immersion,” said Elisabelle Bocal (M.S.W. ’24). “The goal was to develop something involving the pandemic that leaves our community, our government, and our local infrastructure better. So, it seems really strange to think that five strangers would have all responded and we would be put together on this.”

Bocal, Michaela Myerson (Pharm.D., ’22), Katie Santanello (D.O., '24), Sean Callagy (D.O., '24), and William Rinaldi (D.O., '24) were randomly selected to work together on research for the competition.

For their project they decided to put together a pandemic playbook for addressing future pandemics.

After evaluating failed performance indicators across education, public health, infrastructure, and mental health, they came up with a set of recommendations that make up the playbook.

“The center of our project was analyzing different aspects of the pandemic and things we can do better to respond to it,” said Myerson. “There was a lot of fallout from measures taken as a response to the pandemic. For example, students were removed from school. How do we make sure that students are still accessing education? How do we make sure that the quality of education is still good? How do we make sure their parents are able to leave and go to work?”

One of the recommendations they came up with is making sure schools have a hybrid model plan to assure that schools can stay open for students who need a safe and productive learning environment and the necessary tools to ensure a maximal learning experience.

They also found that early and aligned public health messaging from public health officials and government officials is crucial and that mental health must be factored into the preparedness and response plans for public health emergencies from the onset.

The students’ work took first place in the competition. They have now presented it at three national events, the Nexus Summit 2021, the 2021 Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) Virtual Poster Fair, and Association of Schools Advancing Health Professions Poster Fair.

A majority of students on the team have remained together for their next research project: a “Study of Student Involvement in Interprofessional Work and Impact on Health Professional Preparedness to Collaborate in the Workspace".

“The general research question is, does interprofessional work prepare you to collaborate in the workspace after graduation?” said Myerson. “We are interviewing students who recently graduated about their involvement in interprofessional work while in school, their experiences in the actual workplace, and if they felt prepared to collaborate when the time came.”

Cohen Konrad says what her impresses her the most about the work is that the research is totally student driven from start to finish.

“What is so special about this is that it is student-led research collaboration,” she explained. “The whole goal of interprofessional education is to have the students continue those cross professional alliances after graduation and that they begin to make change in the workplace and in the world.”

Sean Callagy
Sean Callagy
William Rinaldi
William Rinaldi