Over 1,000 health-care students log on for virtual interprofessional education event

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

IPE Day 2021 brought health-care learners from seven professions together to learn about Indigenous health-care.

Each March, University of Waterloo health-care students travel to London for Interprofessional Education Day, an event that brings students together to learn with, from and about each other. The goal is to prepare health-care providers for truly collaborative practice across professions.

IPE Day by the numbers:

Design of a lab coat1000 +

students from seven health-care service providers

Infographic of four individuals in a circle150 +

health-care providors and academic facilitators from across Ontario

Stylized laptop screen102

Zoom breakout rooms

With over 1,000 participants, IPE Day in 2021 necessarily looked different from previous iterations of the event. Taking this massive event – which involves a panel presentation and facilitated small group discussions – online was no easy feat. Event organizers began planning in August 2020.

Screencapture of one of the online Zoom meetingsThe event’s panel put the spotlight on Indigenous health care, cultural safety, and advocacy. It featured presentations from Samantha Dokis, an Anishinaabe Kwe Scholar, lecturer, and researcher with extensive experience in Indigenous topics and Dr. Anna Gunz, a pediatric intensive care doctor at the Children's Hospital - London Health Sciences Centre, who spoke about environmental health. 

After the panel, students moved to breakout rooms for a discussion with about 10 other students from different professional programs. Together, they examined a patient case about a family in Asupeeschoseewagong First Nation, also known as Grassy Narrows, in northern Ontario. Breakout rooms were facilitated by faculty volunteers, all of whom who received Indigenous cultural safety training prior to the event.

The case was written by Samantha Dokis and Sam Cronk, a Digital Humanities Consultant and Cultural Scholar with over two decades of experience working in consultation with Indigenous communities on collaborative initiatives. It walked students through the legacy of environmental racism in the First Nation and the impact of contamination and mercury poisoning on the health of three generations of a family. Students then worked together to generate a care plan to support the patients.

Waterloo students Aisa Dobie and Hellen Xu found participating in IPE Day and exploring the topic of Indigenous health care to be incredibly rewarding. “By talking with a variety of health-care students in small groups, I learned how important inter-disciplinary collaboration can be when discussing systemic issues of injustice in healthcare, and how we can act moving forward as future clinicians to break down these barriers," said Dobie. Xu also found the focus on collaboration to be particularly insightful and is confident she can put her learning into practice. “I know I will take with me the things I learned during IPE Day to incorporate into my future practice,” said Xu.

For the School of Optometry & Vision Science, IPE Day’s spotlight on Indigenous health was especially welcome, as it aligns directly with the School’s commitment to support reconciliation and the University’s broader Indigenization strategy. As the School prepares the next generation of optometrists, events like IPE Day are critical in teaching the continued impact of racism on Indigenous health, and the importance of cultural safety as a key tenet in reconciliation and health care.

IPE Day 2021 is the sixth installment of IPE Day. The event is supported by the South Western Academic Health Network and supported by the University of Waterloo, Western University and Windsor University.

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