An interprofessional team of four UA students – a public health master’s student, nursing graduate student, a medical student, and a nutritional science undergraduate – won the 2017 National CLARION Case Competition and will split a $7,500 scholarship among them.
Showcasing their diverse expertise and collaborative approach to address a real-world health care challenge, four University of Arizona students beat 15 university teams from across the nation to earn the 2017 national CLARION Case championship for interprofessional collaboration and communication.
The CLARION Case Competition, held nationally since 2005 by the University of Minnesota and its CLARION student organization, is dedicated to improving health care through interprofessional collaboration. The competition consists of university teams of four students, from at least two disciplines, who are judged for their ability to create a root-cause analysis on a real-world health challenge. A panel of interprofessional judges awards scholarships for first, second and third place teams.
Staged in two parts, a local and national competition, the UA team won the local competition, organized and held at the UA Health Sciences on Feb. 28, by defeating two other UA teams. The local UAHS CLARION competition is in its second year and is organized by the UA Health Sciences Center for Transformative Interprofessional Healthcare, led by Sally Reel, PhD, RN, FNP, BC, FAAN, FAANP, associate vice president for health sciences interprofessional education, collaboration and community engagement.
Strangers only a few months ago, Elizabeth Anderson, UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health; Cameron Price, MPH, UA College of Medicine – Tucson (and UA College of Public Health alum); Brenda Velarde, UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; and Alicia Walker, UA College of Nursing, became teammates when randomly assigned to one another to create a root-cause analysis for childhood obesity.
For the April 8 competition, they and CLARION teams across the nation were asked to create an integrated plan to improve health care for migrant and immigrant children, with a focus on childhood obesity. Teams were judged based on their ability to incorporate best practices in interprofessional teamwork, which included involving local and regional institutions and community resources as members of a hired consulting group. The teams presented their analysis and findings on the case, "The Weight is Over,” to judges who represented members of a community board, established to address childhood obesity in the region.
Born in Yuma, Ariz., Velarde, the sole undergraduate on the team, said she was prompted to join the competition as a challenge to overcome her stage fright and because of its interprofessional focus. She will graduate in May with a degree in nutritional sciences at the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “Because I was working full-time and going to school full-time, the CLARION competition was challenging but it has been the best experience I have ever had. I learned so much from my teammates and they from me. They were so supportive and encouraging, calling me their secret weapon. I will remember it forever and am very grateful for the opportunity,” said Velarde. She has been accepted and will use her share of the scholarship to pursue a master’s of science degree and dietetic internship at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
Anderson, who will graduate with a master’s degree in public health in May, said the team benefited from its diversity, both in experiences and educational training. “Part of our strength came from having a team member who had grown up in a migrant community, like Brenda did in Yuma, while others on the team had international experience. Additionally, most of us had a background in public health,” said Anderson, who will use her share of the scholarship toward earning a doctorate in public health from the UA.
The team was able to incorporate suggestions from their mentors during the local competition to prepare for the national competition. The team was mentored by Terri Warholak, PhD, RPh, associate professor of pharmacy practice and science, UA College of Pharmacy, and Mary Marian, DCN, RDN, assistant professor of practice, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Marian, who is a first-time mentor with CLARION, traveled with the team to the national competition. “CLARION is such a rewarding experience; you get to work with incredible students from other disciplines that you normally wouldn’t interact with. It was wonderful to work with this team made up of four people with varying disciplines in health, each with different strengths. Their ideas were solid from the beginning,” said Marian.
“To improve health care we need to train students to identify systems problems and to tackle those problems using a holistic approach that will impact the system in a positive manner,” said Warholak, who became a CLARION mentor last year as part of her personal mission to make health care practice better by minimizing errors while maximizing quality.
“We wouldn’t have won without the feedback from our mentors. That and the quality and professionalism of my team members. I wish there were more interprofessional opportunities at the UA Health Sciences. Even if we hadn’t have placed in the competition, the experience was worth it,” said Price, who will graduate from medical school in 2020.
“This is only our second year to compete in this national competition, now in its 12th year. This elite interprofessional competition is designed to encourage communication among disciplines, especially early on in the careers of health-care professionals, so the values may be carried into practice after graduation. Their award-winning root-cause analysis will now serve as an example for other teams to follow as they begin planning to compete next year," said Dr. Reel.