Faculty Impact: Promoting collaborative medicine in the community

When students apply to Wayne State University School of Medicine, they state they want to make a difference in its urban mission, and they work to learn their basic, pre-clinical sciences in medical school classrooms during their first two years.

But then what? One member of WSU’s faculty has been working to provide these students with early clinical experiences in the Detroit community by designing and implementing award-winning programs to make a difference in community health and keep students focused on their goal to become compassionate physicians. Many of these programs also provide the opportunity to work as members of a team with students from other health professions. This experience is critical to their future as practicing physicians.

Jennifer Mendez headshotJennifer Mendez, Ph.D., is an associate professor in Internal Medicine and Director of the Community Engagement Program at Wayne State University School of Medicine. Her academic focus has been on Interprofessional Education and Marginalized Populations. Her innovative curricula have resulted in more than 70 presentations and publications but, more importantly, provided a venue for faculty and students to work together in the community. Dr. Mendez works collaboratively with other faculty to develop these learning-by-doing opportunities while ensuring content competencies.

Dr. Mendez received her doctorate from the College of Education at Marquette University in Milwaukee. Growing up in Pakistan shaped her ability to connect with people from many backgrounds. “Our childhood home is where all of the neighborhood children would gather, Muslim and Catholic alike,” she says. Be the difference” are words that Jenny lives by.

Tenacity may not be the first word that comes to mind when looking at this self-proclaimed “height-challenged individual,” but that is the word many might use to describe Dr. Jennifer Mendez. Friday evenings, she heads home to Toronto; often, there will be a student or two co-piloting the four-hour drive so she can get to know more about them.

One of Dr. Mendez’s programs, the Interprofessional Team Visit Program (IPTV), is embedded in the curriculum of ten healthcare professional disciplines at WSUSOM, including medicine, pharmacy, nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, nursing, physician assistant, athletic therapy, social work, and the dental program at the University of Detroit – Mercy. IPTV teams of three students from different fields visit adults in their homes. The goals of IPTV are to understand successful aging (i.e., aging in the community) and provide an early opportunity for students to work together in an interprofessional team.

Early in the pandemic, IPTV teams could not visit patients personally, so they pivoted to virtual visits using Zoom. Many of the students had to teach patients how to use Zoom before the visits could take place, a process that benefitted both sides. The students got valuable experience in patience and teaching, and the patients were able to engage with family and friends virtually once they learned the platform. One 90-year-old patient said this enabled her to enjoy the opera online on the weekends. Well done, IPTV, and thank you, Dr. Mendez.

Dr. Mendez will be retiring this Fall, and we wish her health and happiness, and many thanks for her contributions to Wayne State University.

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