Interdisciplinary education: Industry and community projects in action

Dr Melanie Hayes1, Dr Jennifer Fletcher1, Professor Lorraine Smith1

1University Of Sydney, Camperdown, Australia

Background: Interdisciplinary collaboration in education promotes innovative practice, required to solve complex problems. This is particularly important in healthcare education, as interdisciplinary teamwork and collaborative practice will create work-ready graduates, a stronger healthcare system and improved health outcomes. However, collaborating beyond the health disciplines is often overlooked, when this approach may promote innovative thinking, complex problem-solving abilities and working in diverse teams.


Project methodology: To provide a truly interdisciplinary educational experience the University of Sydney has developed Industry and Community Project Units (ICPUs), which provide senior students from all Faculties the opportunity to work together on real-world problems for industry partners.  Students are briefed by the industry partner on a complex problem impacting the healthcare system and work together in diverse teams to present outcomes and solutions that are not limited by the health disciplines.


Case Studies in Health: The Western Sydney Local Health District has been involved in the ICPUs, particularly with challenges facing the Westmead Redevelopment. One project focused on the impact of emerging technologies on healthcare delivery, and another focused on solutions to ‘wayfinding’ in the Westmead precinct. Teams comprised students from psychology, languages, engineering, business, occupational therapy and science. Following a semester of research, project planning and management and interaction with industry partners and other stakeholders, the students delivered reports representing diverse perspectives and recommendations that could not have been otherwise achieved without interdisciplinary teamwork.  The deliverables were strong examples of what could be achieved through interdisciplinary collaboration and entrepreneurship, and several recommendations were actually adopted by the Local Health District. Positive student evaluations and industry feedback demonstrates the value in this interdisciplinary initiative.

This education initiative answers the call by the World Health Organisation to policy-makers, decision-makers, educators, health workers, community leaders and global health advocates to move towards interprofessional education and collaborative practice.

Biography: To be confirmed

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