As the COVID-19 outbreak morphed into a pandemic and fear, misinformation, and stigmatization follow closely in its wake, it can be difficult to remember a time 40 years ago when the AIDS epidemic began and those same forces traumatized a community already reeling from the tragic deaths of so many of its members. However, for students who took the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Interprofessional Collaborative Practice (ICP) in HIV Care course this spring, the current public health crisis provided a unique lens with which to approach their training.
Through a regional HIV Interprofessional Education collaborative, the Midwest AIDS Training and Education Center (MATEC)—with leadership from medical director James Sosman, MD, professor (CHS), Divisions of Infectious Disease and General Internal Medicine—has developed team-based training programs, including the ICP in HIV Care course, to prepare health professions students to optimize care and outcomes for persons living with HIV/AIDS.
The course is offered through the School of Pharmacy and in collaboration with MATEC and the Schools of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH), Nursing and Social Work. It’s taught by University of Wisconsin expert faculty and gives medical, nursing, pharmacy and social work students an opportunity to share knowledge and learn the latest in team-based HIV care strategies.
The curriculum includes the history of the HIV epidemic; HIV epidemiology, including populations disproportionately impacted by HIV; principles of HIV prevention, diagnosis and treatment; and principles of interprofessional practice.
“Taking this course against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged me to assess its overlap with the HIV/AIDS epidemic regarding government response, prevention strategies, stigmatization, and efforts to construct effective therapies,” says Terik Terrell, an SMPH student who recently completed the course. “Robust discussion around these topics is essential to driving healthcare forward and ICP in HIV is an excellent platform to become part of the conversation!”
Dr. Sosman, who also serves as the medical director for the UW Health HIV Care & Prevention Program, has been involved in the course since its inception. In his role as MATEC-WI’s Medical Director, he provides overall program leadership, provides training and clinical consultation, and oversees any intensive clinical training for clinicians.
“Students gained an understanding that they will not work alone as a clinician,” he reflects. “HIV care has been a leader in promoting team-based care for decades. Examples of this care, both observed and discussed in this class, have relevance to our students regardless of their future clinical focus or specialty.”
“The pandemic provided a rare opportunity to describe in real time how our understanding of COVID-19 was rapidly expanding and how almost every aspect of clinical care was changing in response,” he continues. “We were able to draw many parallels to the early days of the HIV epidemic and the present COVID pandemic, and connect it with the existing curriculum. Students were eager to understand this, especially as some were graduating and starting new professional careers where they would immediately face these clinical challenges.”
Susan Barnett, PharmD, associate professor (CHS) and co-director of interprofessional education, School of Pharmacy, leads the course. Dr. Barnett explains, “What makes this such a unique and amazing experience collaborating during a course is that all faculty acknowledge their own limitations and champion colleagues who bring different perspectives. Faculty model behavior from the beginning and the students really respond to that.”
UW piloted its course with 12 students in 2017 and has since expanded to 24 students. Zachary J. Smith, a senior nursing student who also recently completed the course, praises the collaborative nature. “Time spent with interprofessional colleagues elevated my understanding and admiration for the varying perspectives brought into the health care field, which came out an extended conversation about HIV as a concept, disease, and lived experience,” he says.
In addition to being an enriching learning experience for students interested in HIV care and other health-related fields, the course also offers needed insight into the barriers and challenges HIV patients face and promotes a better understanding of the health and government policies that impact HIV care.
Banner photo: File photo of health professions students participating in a 2018 Interprofessional Collaborative Practice (ICP) in HIV Care course.