Cross-institutional project builds interprofessional toolkit to address medical misinformation

UNE was a key member of a grant-funded effort to dispel medical misinformation in partnership with local medical entities

Four researchers pose in front of a flowers outside
Researchers (from left) Stephanie Nichols, Jennifer Hayman, Shelley Cohen Konrad, and Brendan Prast.

The growing problem of misinformation in health care practice is the focus of an innovative cross-institutional project conducted between the University of New England and Tufts University.

Medical misinformation, disinformation, and vaccine hesitancy led to excess deaths and a public health crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to influence many individuals’ critical health choices, according to researchers from both institutions.

UNE and Tufts spearheaded a Health Professions Education Curricular Innovations 2023 Grant Program titled “Kickstarting Strategies for Addressing Health Misinformation.” The grant is a jointly funded effort between the AAMC and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The project’s aim was to create learning tools to help health professions students, providers, and educators effectively address misinformation and patient decision-making. Unique aspects of the project cited by the AAMC included the use of interprofessional student focus groups to inform toolkit content and recognition by project team members of the need to address misinformation used by health professions colleagues.

Jennifer Hayman, M.D., a pediatrician and clinical associate professor for the Tufts University School of Medicine – Maine Medical Center Maine Track program served as principal investigator on the project.

Shelley Cohen Konrad, Ph.D., LCSW, director of UNE’s Center to Advance Interprofessional Education and Practice (CAIEP) was key personnel providing guidance on interprofessional curriculum development and program design. Additional collaborators from UNE include School of Pharmacy faculty members Emily Dornblaser, Pharm.D., M.S., director of interprofessional pharmacy education, and Stephanie Nichols, Pharm.D., M.P.H., associate professor of pharmacy practice.

Additionally, Maine Track-affiliated physicians Leah Mallory, M.D., Brendan Prast, M.D., and Sarah Nelson, M.D., as well as Linda Chaudron, M.D., M.S., vice president for Medical Education at Maine Medical Center, collaborated on the 16-month project. 

The project team developed and piloted simulated patient scenarios, webinars, and objective structured clinical examinations as part of the virtual communication skills toolkit. A CAIEP Knowledge Exchange, “Scientific Literacy and the COVID Pandemic,” was produced and presented to faculty, students, and community partners in October 2022.

This past September, Hayman, Cohen Konrad, Prast, and Nichols represented the project team at the AAMC Health Professions Education Curricular Innovation Grant 2023 in-person workshop in Washington, D. C. There, they worked with three other AAMC grant-funded teams selected to build a national curricular model to address misinformation in health education and practice.

The CDC/AAMC grant project formally ended Sept. 29, but the team intends to continue its work disseminating findings and resources developed by the grant. The team has already submitted the developed curriculum and a report of the pilot to the AAMC's peer-reviewed, online journal, MedEdPORTAL. They are currently working on other publications aimed at making the toolkit accessible to national health professions programs.