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Highlighting IPE Faculty at UW - Sara Mackenzie

Sara Mackenzie, MD, MPH
UW School of Public Health

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Sara Mackenzie is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the U.W. School of Public Health.  She is also the Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Education in the School.  Her academic preparation include the completion of a B.S., Biology at the University of Iowa, a medical degree at the University of California, Davis, and a Masters in Public Health, Health Services at the University of Washington.  Sara directs the Undergraduate Public Health Major, oversees the School of Public Health undergraduate programs, and teaches undergraduate courses on personal health, public health, ethics and policy.  She is double boarded in Family Medicine and Adolescent Medicine and continues to practice direct clinical care at U.W. Hall Health. 

Why (and how) did you get involved with IPE?

Dr. Mackenzie: “I passionately believe in the power of collaboration in all activities- whether it is team approaches to direct patients care, course & program development or community work.  In regards to organized activities in Health Sciences, I am somewhat of a newcomer to the scene.  As director of the Undergraduate Public Health Major, a year ago I raised the idea that perhaps we should explore opportunities for undergraduate public health students to engage with undergraduates in social work, nursing, business, and other U.W. schools.  This interest led to my official role in IPE when I was asked in March of 2014 to replace Steve Gloyd on the IPE Curriculum and Metrics committee.  I happily agreed because I believe that the incorporation public health training is a critical component in the education of all health professionals.  For me, the essence of Interprofessional education is learning to work collaboratively and holistically to improve the lives of our patients, our communities and our societies (sounds very public health).  While current IPE efforts focus predominantly on students already in the health professional programs, my hope is that we may be able to use this as a framework to expand opportunities and efforts to undergraduates and pre-health professionals eventually."

What do you believe are the benefits of IPE?

Dr. Mackenzie: “If we consider any health problem in our society, it is easy to see that focusing on one aspect of health is quite limiting.  For a concrete example, if a patient is seen in the emergency room due to an overdose on narcotic medications – treating the overdose and sending them back out into the community is a quick fix for this event but does nothing to address how they had access to narcotics in the first place, what personal factors or life stresses led to the overdose, and what personal and community support systems are in place to prevent them coming back next week for a repeat episode.  We get closer to solving the problem, when all health professionals consider: why have drug overdose deaths risen more than 3 fold in the past 20 years? Why have prescription pain medications become a leading cause of overdose deaths?  If we step back and look at where the drugs come from (access), what factors lead to overuse/misuse, and the potential points of contact with health providers – we start to see the complexity of the health issue and the fact that working together we have more opportunities to create a network that can truly address the challenges.  My hope is that IPE starts to allow people to see beyond their own silos, improve communication and understanding about the skills each profession brings to the table, and gets us to start to identify new and creative ways that we can work together to more comprehensively address health challenges.  We also may want to start to consider the role and/or obligation that our students in the health professions have to give back to society as educated citizens and potential community leaders.  When we consider the social, economic and environmental impact of the health systems in the U.S., there are components beyond direct clinical care that I feel young health professionals need to consider."

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

Dr. Mackenzie: “As I am new to the UW endeavor, I will reflect on an experience in Interprofessional education outside of the UW.  I have served as a consultant to the Department of Labor Job Corps (a residential vocational training program for at- risk youth) for the past 7 years.  Job Corps was quite progressive at its inception in the 1960s in requiring centers to provide comprehensive basic health services to all students.  As such, centers include mental, physical, oral health services and drug, alcohol and tobacco cessation services.  Contracted center providers’ work together to provide collaborative care with a shared goal of helping students (patients) see the links between health, wellness, and employability.  As a consultant, I work with consultants from a range of health professions to design continuing education opportunities (and policies) for center staff that considers holistically how the professionals can collaborate and communicate to create an environment that sets the students (patients) up for success.  These activities have really pushed me to think “out of the box” in challenging my own assumptions about my own profession (medicine and public health) and other health professions.  I really enjoy helping motivate others to see their strengths and how they can empower the group to be more than the individual parts."