Problem: The rapidly diversifying population of North America has disparate health needs that are addressed by creative, community-based training of health professions students. Approach: The authors report five years (2008-2012) of experience implementing a novel interprofessional Community Health and Education Exchange (iCHEE) elective course for dental, medical, nursing, nutrition, pharmacy, physician assistant, and public health students at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). This pioneering interprofessional course was created by the OHSU Global Health Center and is offered in fall, winter, and spring quarters. Students interact with individual clients drawn from community centers supporting refugees, recent immigrants, and other underserved people. In addition to health concerns, clients are encouraged to share backgrounds and experiences with student teams. Clients receive guidance on nutrition, exercise, pharmaceuticals, and accessible health services. Student teams perform a noninvasive health check on clients with the assistance of faculty mentors who, on finding a physical or mental health issue, refer the client from the educational setting to an appropriate health care facility. Outcomes: In addition to supporting health promotion and early intervention for medically underserved people, students reported gaining valuable cross-cultural knowledge, understanding, and experience from clients. Students also appreciated the value of diverse skills and knowledge available in their multidisciplinary teams. Through the end of 2012, over 300 health professions students worked with approximately 1,200 clients to complete the iCHEE course. Next Steps: The iCHEE model should prove helpful in preparing health professions students at other institutions to understand and serve diverse populations.
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