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Heather Congdon Named Director of Interprofessional Education

Congdon is a professor in the Department of Practice, Sciences, and Health Outcomes Research.

Headshot of Heather Congdon

By Emily Bleiweis
December 4, 2023

Since the beginning of her career, interprofessional education (IPE) has been a focus for Heather Congdon, PharmD, BCPS, CDE. Starting this fall, Congdon is furthering that work in a new leadership role.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) has announced the appointment of Congdon in the role of director for the University Center for Interprofessional Education. Congdon, professor in the Department of Practice, Sciences, and Health Outcomes Research within the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy (UMSOP), comes to the role after having spent nearly two decades at UMB.

And as the role of pharmacists has evolved over time — with a focus on chronic disease management, as opposed to medication dispersion alone — the interprofessional model has become more important than ever.

“As a pharmacist, I’m the medication expert. But I have always felt like there was so much more I could offer patients than just help with their medications,” Congdon said. “Patients benefit so much from different disciplines working collaboratively together as a team — their care is significantly enhanced from that interaction and ultimately, their clinical outcomes improve dramatically. And it’s not just patients who are benefiting from these team-based care experiences. Students participating in IPE teams that provide collaborative care are learning with, from, and about the other disciplines, thus preparing them to work efficiently and effectively in teams upon graduation.”

The Center for Interprofessional Education began under former UMB President Jay A. Perman, MD, now chancellor of the University System of Maryland, and was announced at the first IPE Day in April 2013. Perman, a pediatric gastroenterologist who continues his practice in the weekly President’s Clinic that includes students from various schools, has continued to be an avid supporter of interprofessional education and the center.

“There’s no better choice for center director than Dr. Congdon,” said Perman. “I don’t know anyone more knowledgeable about interprofessional education — anyone with more expertise in how to do IPE well or a better appreciation of its significant benefits for our patients and our colleagues when we get it right. From my earliest days at UMB, I knew I could look to Dr. Congdon not just for her leadership in IPE but for her deep passion for the work. I’m delighted she’s in this new role.”

Jane M. Kirschling, PhD, RN, FAAN, the former Bill and Joanne Conway Dean of the University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON), had led the center as its director since its founding. Kirschling retired at the end of the 2022-2023 academic year.

Congdon brings multiple goals and initiatives with her into this new role, like a new “registry,” which will live online and allow for both internal audiences — like students and faculty — as well as external audiences — like accreditors — to find all IPE opportunities available at UMB in one location. This work comes from a partnership with Texas Tech University, which has allowed UMB to use their software to create this database.

“One thing that I always felt was lacking was a repository of all of the IPE activities on campus,” she added. “If I was a student, and I wanted to know what the options are for me? There wasn’t a place for a student to go to be able to find that.”

Congdon is also in the early stages — thanks to the Elkins Professorship through the University System of Maryland — of bringing a digital badging system for IPE to UMB. This system will create several badges based on the Interprofessional Education Collaborative competencies that students will be able to add to their portfolios, LinkedIns, or resumes to indicate they’ve mastered a specific IPE skill. Having these indicators will help to set UMB students apart.

Prior to her role as director of the center, Congdon served as a co-director. She is joined in her new role by three co-directors, two of whom are new to their position.

Linda B. Horn, PT, DScPT, MHS, director for academic affairs and assistant professor in the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science (UMSOM PTRS), and Bridgitte Gourley, DNP, FNP-BC, director for the Family Nurse Practitioner specialty and assistant professor in the University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON), have been named new co-directors; they will work alongside current co-director Joseph P. Martinez, MD, associate dean for medical education and student experience and associate professor of Emergency Medicine in UMSOM.

“When we care for individuals and communities as health care providers, it is important to remain humble and realize many solutions may exist,” Gourley said. “Bringing interprofessional students and faculty together augments the opportunity to develop holistic, patient-centered solutions for our patients and communities. Students benefit from learning this early in their careers, so they can integrate this into their professional practice for years to come.”

“Patient care is improved when clinicians work together. Students need to understand the roles of different professions who may be involved in the care of the patient and how to communicate and collaborate effectively,” Horn said. “IPE gives the students the knowledge and skills they need so they can be successful in their clinical experiences participating as a member of the health care team.”

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