Skip to Content

What We Do Matters

What we do matters

Since 1876, the AAMC has offered services, products, and resources to help tomorrow’s doctors.

AAMC Learning Center

Hold your next Washington D.C., event at the AAMC Learning Center. Our staff will help you plan a memorable experience.

A Word From the President: “Of Course I’m a Team Player!”

AAMC Reporter: May 2012

In talking about the future of health care during my visits to medical schools and teaching hospitals across the country, I often ask the question, “Who here is a team player?” And not surprisingly, virtually everyone answers affirmatively. After all, who among us does not want to be considered a team player? But as we think about how we educate our learners for the future practice of medicine, are we really “walking the talk” when it comes to teams?

Last February, six national health professions associations, including the AAMC, formalized their alignment by establishing the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) as an independent organization, creating a national partnership that will focus on advancing the interprofessional education of nurses, physicians, dentists, pharmacists, and public health professionals. The IPEC founders believe that true, interprofessional collaborative practice occurs when health professionals from a range of backgrounds work together as a high-performance team with their patients to deliver high-quality, coordinated care. No single health profession can achieve this important goal alone.

The vision these six organizations share is that fostering a collaborative, team-based professional identity should begin at the earliest stages of training, and that this requires health professions students to develop a new set of competencies so they enter practice in their fields ready for teamwork in the clinic and at the bedside. That is why the IPEC report on their findings is so important. It outlines the specific competencies needed by all health professionals to provide integrated, high-quality care, and it represents a consensus of leaders in medical, nursing, pharmacy, dental, and public health education. Since its release last May, the report has sparked a wave of efforts by educators focused on preparing clinicians to meet the demands of providing health care in the 21st century.

But this is only the beginning. The IPEC has two major initiatives moving forward to advance a culture of team-based care.

First, the organization will focus on preparing faculty for interprofessional roles. Beginning this month, the IPEC will host faculty development conferences around the nation, with the theme of “Building Your Foundation for Interprofessional Education.” These conferences will train faculty to model best practices, allowing them to bring their new skill sets back to their home institutions to implement substantive interprofessional learning. It immediately became clear that demand for this kind of training is high. The first session in Virginia was fully subscribed just 10 hours after it opened for registration.

In the months ahead, the IPEC also will focus on creating educational resources to improve interprofessional education for future health care providers through a national clearinghouse of competency-based learning resources on interprofessional education and team-based care, made possible by a grant from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation. In addition to the six founding organizations of the IPEC, the American Psychological Association, the Physician Assistant Education Association, and the American Physical Therapy Association are collaborating on this project. The call for submissions is now open, and 15 stipends will be awarded to help applicants develop educational content for peer review on an extension of MedEdPORTAL®, the AAMC’s peer-reviewed repository for teaching and assessment resources. Visit for more details and to submit content before the May 25 deadline.

In their now-classic book The Wisdom of Teams, Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith argue that “teams outperform individuals acting alone, especially when performance requires multiple skills, judgments, and experiences.” Their central thesis is that members of a team can produce wisdom that no single team member possesses. In clinical care terms, this means that we are better care providers for our patients when we collaborate with other health professions than when we remain in our professional silos.

So how do we get high-performing care teams at our patients’ bedsides? The AAMC and the IPEC founders know that the best way to achieve this is by reinforcing a culture of interprofessional collaboration and mutual accountability from day one of health professions training.

Despite the growing national momentum for interprofessional education and the support for a vision of true team-based care, why has it eluded us? If I have visited your campus, you have heard me speak about the legacy of Abraham Flexner and how he returned medicine to its academic origins. While the Flexner report had many positive outcomes, such as rooting medicine in the scientific method, it also tied our profession to the individualistic and expert-centered culture of the university. Today, this culture of “rugged individualism” is reinforced by systems that support our mission areas, such as competition for R01 NIH grants to individual investigators, and a health care reimbursement system that pays providers for their personal production of individual services, tests, and procedures.

Moving to a more team-based approach is essential to transform our health care system. I am encouraged that many of the schools I visit are moving actively from the “old” culture of individualism and hierarchy toward a more team-centered and collaborative approach in the education of their students. The cultural shift represented by the IPEC and related efforts must occur if we want future care providers to have the skills and competencies necessary for operating in interprofessional care teams.

The AAMC and I look forward to collaborating with you and your institution as you work toward educating the next generation of team-minded health care professionals. We owe it to our patients to deliver the highest-quality care possible, and we cannot achieve that without partnering closely with our colleagues in nursing, dentistry, pharmacy, public health, and the allied health professions. Hopefully, in the end, we all will be true health care “team players.”

Darrell G. Kirch, M.D.
AAMC President and CEO