IPE Profile

Andrea Zakrajsek 

Brief professional description

I am an occupational therapist and have received all three of my higher education degrees in the field of OT. However, as a graduate student, I was drawn to coursework and research projects in the areas of disability studies and aging, in part because of their interdisciplinary nature. Having the opportunity to develop knowledge within a field, such as disability or aging, by exploring the subject from a variety of disciplines, has always been exciting for me. I currently find myself seeking out opportunities to partner with faculty, staff, and students across campus in educational and research pursuits.

How and why did you get involved?

I would say I first became involved in IPE as a new occupational therapist. I was fortunate to work in a very collaborative interprofessional team of OTs, PTs, Speech-Language Pathologists, Recreational Therapists, Nurses, Social Workers, Physicians, Dietitians, and Psychologists at the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan in Detroit. It was during that experience of working together for the health and participation of our patients, cross-training and providing instruction to one another, and partnering on various hospital initiatives, I recognized the value of interprofessional collaboration and education. As an instructor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, I had the opportunity to take part of IPE initiatives, facilitating IP learning opportunities for students from various professional programs on the medical side of campus. Bringing this knowledge of interprofessional collaboration in an IP team and educating future professional students to do the same to my faculty role at EMU, I've had many opportunities within the Occupational Therapy and Aging Studies Programs to develop and enhance rich educational experiences for students for students with my colleagues from various disciplines.

What do you believe are the benefits?

I believe that IPE offers an opportunity for professional students and faculty to get beyond their professional silos to develop creative solutions that will ultimately support health and participation of our society. By understanding the individual knowledge and strengths that our unique professions bring to healthcare, we can develop something much better, collaboratively.

What has been the most memorable experience or highlight of teaching IPE so far?

I've had so many amazing IPE teaching opportunities that I'm not sure I can pick one! Collaborating with the Nursing Program, we've been able to offer great interprofessional patient simulation educational experiences to our OT and Nursing students that have changed their thinking. Partnerships with the Orthotics and Prosthetics program have led to a deeper understanding of the unique needs and resources for people with amputations for our students. Engaging in interprofessional research has allowed my colleagues and me to construct experiences for students from various professions to develop knowledge and skills to identify research questions that are valuable to multiple disciplines, design and implement studies to answer those questions, and disseminate results back to healthcare systems and other researchers to support patient care. Dialoguing with the interdisciplinary faculty in the Aging Studies Program has allowed us to develop exciting initiatives and creative solutions to support students to develop the skills they need to address issues facing elders from the perspectives of many disciplines. It's thrilling for me to be working in such an environment that EMU affords in collaborating with passionate, intelligent, and highly gifted people from multiple disciplines to support student learning!

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