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Interprofessional Collaboration Between Dietetics and Dental Hygiene: Starting with Students


By Emily Ho
jacqueline-Gao.jpgJacqueline Guo, UBC Dietetics student, teamed up with dental hygiene student, Jessica Steed, to help revamp the current nutrition curriculum in the UBC Dental Hygiene program. With the goal of increasing interprofessional education, the dietetics-dental hygiene duo developed three case study videos recreating scenarios where interprofessional collaboration between dietitians and dental hygienists occurs. These videos feature a clinical geriatrics case, a public health pediatrics case, and a private practice pregnancy case. Future plans include evaluating the effectiveness of this teaching method and exploring the possibility of dietetics students facilitating nutrition discussion groups in dental hygiene classrooms.

Please read below for a Q&A with Jacqueline Guo to get her take on interprofessional education and her advice to fellow students. 

What inspired you to take on this project?

I really enjoy interprofessional collaboration. In the field, you are going to be working with teams of different professionals. I think it’s important for other health professionals to know what we, as dietitians, do and for us to know what they do. Dental hygienists learn a lot that is so important to dietetics. If you don’t have good teeth, how are you going to eat? Of course, it will have a negative impact on your nutritional intake. Coming from a family of scholars, I’m also interested in education. So, I thought this project was an interesting opportunity, and I took it.

What did you find most valuable from your experience participating in this project? 

In working with the program directors, I think being able to speak our minds about the best way to keep students engaged was really valuable. I felt that the professors were respecting our thoughts and that we could actually contribute to the future of the curriculum. There were many times when the professors suggested something that we knew wasn’t going to fly so well. The students entering the program in the next five to ten years are the people we’re going to be working with in the field. Even though we miss out on benefiting from the new curriculum changes, we want to give the best education to the incoming generations of professionals. I think that’s really cool to think about.

It also really opened my eyes because I got to see dietitians at work. I learned a lot about the applications and experiences of real-life dietitians. I started thinking about my internship next year—this is what I’m going to do, or this is how I should say things, and how to apply that (my learning) to my own career.

Do you see yourself doing something related to this after you graduate?

If the opportunity arises, I would love to keep expanding on this project at UBC. Hopefully, this method of education gets adopted across more health professional faculties. For example, dietitians work so closely with SLP’s and OT’s in the hospital, so it would be cool to see similar collaboration arise between those faculties.

I might do something education-related in the future because post-secondary education is when you shape these students to be the capable professionals you would like them to be. Maybe I’ll work in the field, realize a need for better education in an area of dietetics, and then come back to change it. If there’s an opportunity to be a program director or part of the directing team, of course, I would love to do something like that. 

What advice would you give to other students who are interested in starting their own interprofessional project?

Honestly, just do it. Working within the school, it’s probably easiest if you get a professor on board who will help build those connections and kickstart the project, but it’s not impossible to start by yourself if you have a capable team. Begin finding the people to support you right away, and don’t be afraid of reaching out to others. Don’t give up just because it doesn’t work the way you want. Most problems are solvable, so just be brave.
But also, be realistic and know that it takes time. It’s not going to happen overnight. You have to build a one-year, two-year, or five-year plan. It has taken the project director seven years to come up with this, so don’t be put off by the fact that it’s going to take a while.

If you’re really passionate about something, then go for it. Take any opportunity you can get.
Project Contributors:
Project Directors:  Gail Hammond (Dietetics professor)
Stakeholders:  Dr. Zul Kanji (Dental Hygiene program director), Jelena Karan (Dental
Hygiene program director)
Video Producing Assistance: LFS Learning Centre

Read more about Interprofessional Collaboration with National Morgan Medal winner Qianxi Tang.

Emily Ho is a nutrition student studying at the University of British Columbia. She is currently pursuing a degree in dietetics and has been eager to learn more about life as a dietitian. After connecting with Lisa McKellar, she was introduced to a few dietitians and dietetics students whom she then had the pleasure to interview. She wrote these articles (based on their conversations) to shine a spotlight on the unique work and personal experiences of individuals within the dietetics community. She has enjoyed gaining a better understanding of dietetics through this project and is excited to continue exploring the dietetics profession.  

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