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.

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.

The 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. 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. With a facilitator to guide them through the case, students generated a care plan to support the patients.

A group of students on a zoom call

One of the student breakout rooms

“Hearing my team’s perspectives on patient care helped me learn a lot more about the issue and how we all fit into the development of patient centered treatment plans,” says Maxine Wagg, a pharmacy student participant. “This event really opened my eyes as to how crucial it is to effectively communicate with every member of a patient’s health circle to ensure they have the absolute best chance of success.  I can’t wait to see all my group in health care, advocating for their patients and actively working for the best outcomes possible!”

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.