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University responds to changing health care climate

By Katie Demeria

Health care is undergoing dramatic changes nation wide, and according to Adrienne Bloss, vice president for academic affairs at Shenandoah University, health education must change with it.

The university is taking steps to ensure its students are prepared for the professional medical world as it adjusts to intense health disparities between populations in the country and legislation like the Affordable Care Act, which encourages team-based medical care.

Bloss said Timothy Ford, who will fill the newly created position of dean of the School of Health Professions on July 1, is a vital part in meeting those demands.

"He will facilitate communication between programs, and provide additional bridges and opportunities for students both between the programs and other departments we have here," Bloss said.

The school has worked to create partnerships with community organizations, which Bloss said she believes Ford will expand once he officially fills the position.

To further inter-professional education, Bloss said medical professions will also be housed together. Students training to become occupational therapists, physical therapists and physician assistants will work in the same building starting in January of 2015.

Ford said team-based health care should be as broad as you can possibly make it.

"What's critical from my perspective is to make sure that the school does have a very strong working relationship with the community and with health care providers," he said.

The foundations for those relationships, according to Bloss and Ford, have already been created at the school. Bloss said Ford will be the key to expanding inter-professional education.

Ford said team-based health care is beneficial from the patient's perspective and necessary to reduce national health care costs. The communication between health care providers, he said, is invaluable in terms of prevention.

"It's oversight, too, oversight of the medical provider by the other professions," he said. "Even a physician's assistant can pick up errors that the medical practitioner may be unaware of."

"There's a tremendous advantage to having a focus on prevention within a team to make certain that whatever specific health issues that have arisen don't arrive again," he added.

Working with public health, he added, is also vital in understanding why health disparities exist between populations and using prevention methods, like spreading education on the negative impacts of smoking, can help reduce those disparities.

"I do believe that to provide affordable health care it's really all about prevention in the first place, and that's where we cut out costs dramatically," he said.

Bloss said team-based medicine was a tenant of the Affordable Care Act, and in order for it to succeed, it must be encouraged in not only professional practices, but in education as well.

"You can't transform the world of health very effectively without educating students in the first place," she said.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com

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