At the new Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University, interprofessional education is a cornerstone of the curriculum.. The team-based approach to medical education mirrors how healthcare will be delivered in the future: combining expertise across disciplines to combat illness in its many facets— and to preserve health.
The future, however, is now, and Dr. Florian Thomas has already started.
Dr. Thomas is the founding chair of the Department of Neurology at the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University, and chair of the Neuroscience Institute and the Department of Neurology at the Hackensack University Medical Center— where he also directs the new Multiple Sclerosis Center and the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation Center of Excellence Institute. He has also created a number of programs that focus on concussion, movement disorders and headache.
At Seton Hall, Dr. Thomas, an advocate for interprofessional learning and practice, has already begun forging and working to enhance relationships with other academic disciplines and students. The University is already known for its work in creating opportunities for interprofessional education – for example, the School of Health and Medical Sciences Center for Interprofessional Education in the Health Sciences was established in 2014, and Hackensack University Medical Center has had a working relationship with Seton Hall’s Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy programs well before 2016, when Dr. Thomas joined the team and began lecturing to students in Physical Therapy. But Dr. Thomas sees the co-location of these disciplines on campus with the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University and the partnership with Seton Hall as an opportunity to do more.
In fact, Dr. Thomas has begun working with Professor Pamela Foley, Director of Training in the Department of Professional Psychology and Family Therapy at Seton Hall. Together they have initiated a program in which Ph.D. students in the University's counseling psychology program are taking clinical rotations through Pediatric Rheumatology as well as Geriatrics and Neurosciences. The students are seeing patients and working with physicians and psychologists.
The program has shown promising results to date. In fact, after working as a student with patients under Dr. Thomas's tutelage, Brian Amorello, after graduating with a Ph.D. in Psychology from Director Foley's department, is set to join Hackensack's Neuroscience Institute as a Clinical Supervisor on March 6.
"Dr. Amorello was an excellent student, and he is now a valued colleague, who brings a substantial body of experience to his new role as a clinical supervisor. I am delighted that he will be working with us to support the next generation of Seton Hall University doctoral students in their professional development," said Director Foley.
"Disease, and especially chronic disease, does not happen in a vacuum. The entirety of the person becomes involved with long-term illness and to not treat the whole person is to miss that very important point," said Dr. Thomas. "By assembling teams of practitioners from various disciplines we combine our strengths, eliminate our limitations and gain the ability to treat the whole person. And there is plenty of scientific evidence that outcomes are substantially improved with comprehensive, interprofessional care."
Clinical Supervisor Amorello agreed, "People who live with various neurological conditions such as headache, stroke, traumatic brain injury or concussion, MS, or Parkinson's disease often experience emotional and behavioral changes. Counseling Psychologists use various approaches including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help patients relinquish thinking patterns that have led to problematic behaviors/beliefs in favor of more productive approaches. The mind is a powerful thing and can play a key role in both sickness and health. We help patients to use that key in pursuit of wellness."
Dr. Thomas' Background, Interprofessional
It is fitting that Dr. Thomas should advocate for interprofessional medical education as his own education could readily be described as such. In addition to his M.D. and training in Neurology and in Neuroimmunology-Peripheral Nerve Disorders, Thomas holds an M.A. in psychology, an M.S. in Health Outcomes Research and a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology.
"Beyond my educational training, I learned about the importance of interprofessional care while directing the St. Louis VA Spinal Cord Injury Service, where nurses, rehab therapists, psychologists, dietitians, physicians of multiple specialties and social workers worked in an integrated, non-hierarchical model," said Dr. Thomas. "Services were brought to the patient, rather than having the patient have to seek different health care professionals. Patients were discussed in strategic weekly team meetings and care was more effectively coordinated. The results were notable."
In addition to working with the Departments of Professional Psychology and Family Therapy and of Physical Therapy, Dr. Thomas has begun working with Seton Hall's Office of Disability Services, foresees working with Athletics on concussion prevention and treatment services for student athletes and any number of other partnerships as the School of Medicine moves forward.
He noted, "With the School of Nursing, the School of Health and Medical Sciences and the School of Medicine all co-located together at the new campus, we will be able to teach in cohorts that mirror the way medicine will be practiced in the 21st century: in teams and focused on outcomes. Given the infrastructure and the commitment to community health, Seton Hall along with Hackensack-Meridian Health are poised to lead the way in this transformative model."
Categories: Health and Medicine