News and Commentary Macy Faculty Scholar Mayumi Willgerodt on Interprofessional Oral Health Care

Mayumi Willgerodt, PhD, MPH, RN of the University of Washington (UW) School of Nursing discusses her new interprofessional education program.

What are you working on as a Macy Faculty Scholar and why is it important?
I will bring pediatric dental residents, advanced practice nursing students, medical residents, and social work students together to learn the importance of, and how to provide coordinated care to children and families, particularly around oral health.

I will do this by bringing students into the UW Center for Pediatric Dentistry and out into the community. It is clear that interprofessional education is the vehicle through which students and trainees learn to work effectively in teams and while we have done a good job of bringing students together in the classroom setting and in isolated or stand-alone events, we still have work to do in facilitating opportunities for interprofessional learning in clinical settings and the community.

Another aim of the project is to address America’s oral health crisis, particularly with respect to children. Early childhood cavities are five times more common than asthma and somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 million school hours are lost due to problems associated with oral health. Dentists, primary care advanced practice nurses, social workers and especially school nurses are ideal practice partners because of their focus on education, screening, early intervention and coordination of care. We need to bring these professions together not only in their training but also while in practice to learn about each other and how to work together. I’m hoping to help foster dialogue between all the key stakeholders to create a coordinated approach to the integration of oral health in pediatric oral health in this area.

How are you implementing your initiatives at the University of Washington?

I am working with the schools of nursing and dentistry initially, with the intent to bring in the other professions in the fall. My plan is to first bring pediatric nurse practitioners into the Center for Pediatric Dentistry to work with the residents, pilot a progressive interprofessional curricula that moves trainees from exposure to integration of team care, and then refine and grow our approach to make it replicable with the other professions. The Center is a wonderful place to teach and foster team-based care and the faculty have been incredibly supportive of this initiative. It’s exciting. I will also be partnering with stakeholders (educators, students, school nurses, primary care providers, organizations and foundations focused on oral health) to cement these approaches.

Why do you think you’ll be successful?
I really believe in the potential for this project. There’s an existing infrastructure to work with, there’s a history of success with interprofessional education at UW, and all the faculty, trainees and stakeholders are extremely supportive. With the increasing national attention on oral health and the growing development of accountable care organizations, I think the timing is right.

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