Practice Faculty Member Honored with USM Elkins Professorship

Annual award recognizes Dr. Heather Congdon’s expertise in interprofessional education and supports plans for collaboration with Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation

By Lou Cortina
October 1, 2021

Heather B. Congdon, PharmD, BCPS, CDE, FNAP, is firmly committed to advancing and expanding interprofessional education (IPE) in Maryland and beyond. A professorship award from the University System of Maryland (USM) will help her in fulfilling that mission.

Congdon, a professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy (UMSOP), has received a $40,000 Wilson H. Elkins Professorship from USM to work on scaling up targeted IPE recommendations from the 2018 USM report “Strengthening Maryland’s Health Care Workforce.”

Congdon will collaborate with USM’s William E. Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation, which has begun assembling a working group with representation from USM institutions and several community colleges in the state. The goal: create a system in which students earn digital badges based on the three categories of an interprofessional learning continuum developed by the Centre for Interprofessional Education at the University of Toronto.

“This model places IPE experiences and activities into three areas: introductory exposure experiences, immersion and development activities, and entry-to-practice competence activities,” said Congdon, who also is co-director of the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s (UMB) Center for Interprofessional Education (CIPE). “Each badge tier would be mapped to specific Interprofessional Education Collaborative competencies and require completion of certain activities to earn the badge. The badges would be earned in sequential order, along the continuum of learning.

“The USM report recommended scaling up specified IPE activities systemwide and engineering a curriculum development process and framework that would mitigate the traditional institutional barriers to IPE curriculum design,” Congdon added. “The IPE digital badging initiative would help to provide such an IPE framework for all the institutions within USM.”

Natalie D. Eddington, PhD, FAAPS, FCP, dean and professor of UMSOP, congratulated Congdon on the USM award, saying, “This professorship is well-deserved. Dr. Congdon has a record of achievement as a pharmacist, educator, and clinician. We are thrilled that USM is supporting her in advancing interprofessional education at our institutions and beyond.”

UMB President Bruce E. Jarrell, MC, FACS, agreed.

“Dr. Congdon is a strong leader who is poised to expand interprofessional education throughout the University System of Maryland,” he said. “Her efforts will have a great influence on education and patient care, and all of UMB should be proud of her selection as an Elkins Professor.”

Improving and promoting IPE has been a focus at UMB and its seven schools for the past decade, led by CIPE and its mission statement: to prepare health, law, and human services professionals to work collaboratively on interprofessional teams focused on improving the lives of people locally, nationally, and globally.

Congdon, co-director of CIPE since its 2013 launch, says health care professionals were not always efficiently or effectively trained to work in teams.

“Working in an interprofessional patient care team is not necessarily intuitive, so proper training in this care delivery model is essential to produce workforce-ready health care graduates,” she said. “Additionally, in several care environments, interprofessional team-based care has shown demonstrated improvement in clinical outcomes for patients and has decreased emergency room visits and hospital admissions. Lastly, accreditation standards for most of the schools at UMB now require or strongly encourage that students be exposed to interprofessional learning environments.”

Congdon said she sees the value of IPE in her roles as an educator and clinician. She has a clinical practice at Mercy Health Clinic in Gaithersburg, Md., providing care for underserved, uninsured patients on multiple medications and with various chronic conditions.

“On the patient side, it’s very rewarding to watch clinical outcomes improve for our patients and see how they value the team-based care that we provide,” she said. “On the student side, it’s amazing to see student teams evolve over the course of the semester in their team-based skills and abilities. For example, students often start IPE clinical learning experiences as timid students from their individual professions, but they graduate with an understanding and appreciation of the other members of their health care team.”

USM’s Elkins Professorships honor the late Wilson H. Elkins, who was president of the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) from 1954 to 1978. The awards support professors and researchers who demonstrate exemplary ability to inspire students and whose professional work and scholarly endeavors make a positive impact for their universities, USM, and beyond. Congdon’s award was one of five professorships announced by USM for Fiscal Year 2022, as she was joined by faculty members from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, Towson University, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, and UMCP.

Joann Boughman, PhD, senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, USM, said of the awardees, “These women and men embody the excellence and dedication found throughout the University System, and they’re deserving of our praise all year long.”

Congdon said she was excited to earn the Elkins Professorship and thanked Eddington, Jarrell, and colleagues from UMSOP and CIPE for supporting her nomination.

“I am truly passionate about interprofessional education, and this professorship will afford me the opportunity to dedicate more time to advancing IPE digital badging at UMB as well as USM institutions,” she said. “I appreciate the countless colleagues whom I have worked with on interprofessional learning activities for students that laid the groundwork for this Elkins Professorship project to be possible.”

Related News Stories