PA students learn from their public health peers

Campbell implements collaborative approach to teach physician assistant students about public health

BUIES CREEK – Instead of a traditional lecture, students in Campbell’s physician assistant program learned about public health last week directly from the University’s public health students. The peer-to-peer class provided a new collaborative setting where students from both programs could share ideas and learn from each other.

“This is a novel way of presenting the role of PA’s in public health,” said Tina Tseng, PhD, MSPH, chairman of public health at Campbell. “It has been shown that engaging students in inter-professional education is a great learning opportunity for both sets of students.”

The idea that health care education needs to change in order to improve patient care is rapidly growing. At universities nationwide, new curriculums are being developed with team-based learning approaches between different health professions.

The Institute of Medicine released a report in March on the integration of primary care and public health. The report includes a set of core principles derived from successful integration efforts. IOM indicated the principles can serve as a roadmap to move the nation toward a more efficient health system.

The recent expansion of health programs at Campbell equips the University to offer this new training model. And the PA and public health students were excited to take advantage of the opportunity during their first combined class.

“Public Health is part of the infrastructure that keeps our community healthy, it promotes physical and mental health, and works to prevent disease, injury and disability,” said Maegen Hellberg, first-year public health student, during her presentation to the PA class.

Students broke into groups during the class to discuss various issues that currently affect Harnett County. One scenario presented the problem of the hospitalization rate for children ages zero to 14 due to asthma. Rates in Harnett County are more than twice the number of comparable counties in the state. Students were asked to design a proposal that addressed the problem through health education in schools.

“We thought about causes of asthma and why it is such a problem, particularly here. We also discussed ways to address the problem long-term,” said Molly Stapleton Calabria, first-year PA student.
In search of a solution, their ideas included air quality awareness, educating children in small groups to improve self-awareness of triggers, and sending newsletters to parents with information about triggers at home, like second-hand smoke. In terms of long-term outcomes, the group recommended a smoking cessation clinic for parents. 

Plans are underway for continued collaboration with Campbell’s PA and public health programs as well as pharmacy, and future physical therapy and osteopathic medicine students. The University’s health programs have a common goal of building a better patient?centered and population-oriented health care system. Collaboration could benefit patients and communities in the future by providing students with a more comprehensive approach in their training.

Story by Andrea Pratt, College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences

Photo: Campbell’s public health and physician assistant students work together on a group project that addresses health issues in Harnett County.