A conversation with Sarah Vordenberg, Pharm.D., M.P.H., and Michelle Pardee, D.N.P., FNP-BC, founders of the Interprofessional Community Health Collaborative

Hear how this group is providing experiential learning experiences for students across the health sciences while educating community members on important health topics.

The Interprofessional Community Health Collaborative (ICHC) has been around for less than a year, but is already making an impact in the Ann Arbor community. The group gives students and faculty opportunities to work collaboratively across different health professions, providing requested and needed health education to members of the local community. This work was developed out of the Center for Interprofessional Education’s Experiential Innovation workgroup.

We spoke with Sarah Vordenberg, Pharm.D., M.P.H., a clinical associate professor in the College of Pharmacy and Michelle Pardee, D.N.P., FNP-BC, a clinical associate professor in the School of Nursing about their work developing the ICHC, lessons learned and what opportunities lie ahead.

How did the idea for the Interprofessional Community Health Collaborative first come together?

Sarah: The Interprofessional Community Health Collaborative formed in fall 2022 with support from the Center for Interprofessional Education as well as contributions from the Ginsberg Center. In many ways, this has been a grassroots effort among faculty, staff, and students who are passionate about providing opportunities for learners to engage with the local community while developing their ability to work on interprofessional teams. Many ICHC team members have extensive experience facilitating opportunities for students in their own programs to engage in community service activities. However, we recognized the opportunity to work together to expand these activities so that learners could learn how to work together while exploring opportunities to expand the activities to further meet the needs of our surrounding communities. An existing aspect of our work is that we have been able to deepen some of our existing community partnerships while also beginning the process of developing new partnerships. 

Your first ICHC event was back in April at Cranbrook Tower. What takeaways did you learn from your first time out?

Sarah: The College of Pharmacy has conducted health screenings at Cranbrook Tower for many years. However, we were extremely grateful that the community members and staff were willing and excited to try something new! 

There were several aspects of the event that went really well. For example, we picked the topic of high blood pressure based on a bilingual survey we conducted of community members at the site. We developed a Canvas page for medicine, nursing, and pharmacy students and preceptors with information about the logistics, expectations during the event and high blood pressure learning materials that would be available during the activity. We appreciated that the staff helped to advertise the event and that there was high attendance from community members. 

Michelle: We also learned a lot, especially about logistics, during this event. For example, we structured this event so that community members would rotate between tables of interprofessional students who were each responsible for facilitating discussion about a specific aspect of preventing and managing high blood pressure. However, we learned that the event would be better if the students and community members stayed together as one learning community for the duration of the event. Going into the event, we knew that many participants may speak Mandarin. During the event, we realized that we needed to have designated interpreters at each table, as opposed to some students serving in the dual role of being a health educator and interpreter. That way, students in the interpreter role could focus on ensuring effective communication across the group while those in the health educator role could focus on the content.

Tell me more about your most recent event at Parkway Meadows. What was the day like, which disciplines were involved? How did it differ from your first event at Cranbrook Tower?

Sarah: We were very excited to partner with Parkway Meadows for our second event. At this event, we once again focused on preventing and managing high blood pressure. However, we adopted changes to the logistics based on our experience at the Cranbrook Tower event. As Michelle shared, changing how we incorporated dedicated student interpreters allowed for them to focus better on their role. We also had community members and students working together in their small groups for the duration of the event, instead of rotating. We were very excited to include the same disciplines as the previous event in addition to students from the Nutritional Sciences program in the School of Public Health. 

Michelle: Prior to the event, about 15 community members had signed up to participate. However, we were able to demonstrate the importance of being flexible when working in the community setting when more than 30 community members decided to attend! We greatly appreciated that a professional medical interpreter volunteered their time to support our informal student interpreters at this event. 

What impact do you believe experiential community events such as these have on the students who participate? Why is this work important?

Sarah: The goal of the ICHC is to develop a robust, sustainable interprofessional education experience that is mutually beneficial for students and the local community. We strive to develop and foster long-term relationships with both community partner organizations and academic programs on campus. We have developed an approach that allows for flexible involvement of community sites, campus-based programs, preceptors and students. Students have reported that this is a unique experience that is complementary to what they are learning in the classroom and more traditional clinical health settings.  

Michelle: Feedback from the graduate nursing students has been very positive. Those that have participated are going into primary care and love working with people in communities. They also value the expertise of the other students and have learned hands-on that all professions need to work together for the best outcomes.

What is next for the ICHC? Do you have more events on the horizon?

Michelle: As a new group, we are working on establishing our identity to set us up for longitudinal success. We are partnering with a new site, the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), in Ypsilanti for our next interprofessional community health event in November. The event at PACE will again be focused on managing high blood pressure. The population is different from previous events. Individuals will travel to the PACE site from their homes and attend our activity, whereas previously we came to participants’ community room at their apartment complex. 

Sarah: An exciting aspect of this event is that we are partnering with the Center for Interprofessional Education’s Student Advisory Council (SAC). They will be helping us recruit students from health sciences programs to participate in this event. If you are interested in participating, sign up here or email interprofessional.sac.cochairs@umich.edu to learn more about SAC. 

Are you looking to recruit more participants to help plan ICHC events? How can someone, either faculty or students, get involved?

Michelle: We are always looking for more participants! If you are interested, please contact Sarah or myself to connect for meetings and activities.

Sarah: We are also hosting an upcoming Interprofessional Community Health Collaborative retreat on November 3, noon-4 p.m. at Taubman Health Sciences Library (THSL) 5000. We’ll be engaging experts and stakeholders to craft a vision and strategy for the future of the ICHC. Please also let us know if you are interested in attending! This is a great way to learn more about the work even if you are not able to commit to participating in events at this time. Registration closes October 18 — just a few spots remain!

To learn more about the Interprofessional Community Health Collaborative, or RSVP for an upcoming event, please email Sarah Vordenberg (skelling@med.umich.edu) and Michelle Pardee (milopa@med.umich.edu)

Sarah Vordenberg, Pharm.D., M.P.H.
Clinical Associate Professor
College of Pharmacy
Michelle Pardee D.N.P., FNP-BC
Clinical Associate Professor
School of Nursing