Faculty Highlight: Kim Dunleavy

Photo of Dr. Kim Dunleavy

In 2019, Kim Dunleavy, PhD, PT, OCS, clinical professor and director of community engagement, was nominated by the American Council of Academic Physical Therapy, or ACAPT, to be a voice for physical therapy education at the Global Forum for Innovation in Health Professions Education, a component of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

Dr. Dunleavy explains her role as an ACAPT representative, how the global forum has tackled the impact of COVID-19, implications for physical therapy education for the future as well as for her teaching and service at UF.

  • What is your role within the forum as an ACAPT Representative?

As an ACAPT representative, I’m able to be at the table during forum discussions of current issues impacting education for all health professions and to incubate and review options to address some of the societal needs and contemporary issues impacting education. You could compare the forum to a think tank. Members come together, either during closed meetings or during public workshops, all under the goal of fostering innovation across all health professions.

  • Have you been able to implement any takeaways from forum workshops or meetings?

Yes! I learned about Columbia University’s model for the COVID-19 Student Services Corps when they did a presentation at one of the forum workshops. They started the corps mainly because the students wanted to step up to help during the lockdown. I was very excited about the potential and brought back the idea to the interprofessional Healthcare Sciences education group here at UF. After it was sent out to different health professions groups, the UF Chapter of CSSC was established with the help of Heather Harrell, MD, FACP, professor of Medicine and associate dean of Medical Education, and Amy Blue, PhD, associate vice president for interprofessional education in the UF Health Office of the Senior Vice President for Health Affairs. I am one of the two faculty mentors, working alongside Grant Harrell, MD, an assistant professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of community health and family medicine.

DPT students have been heavily involved in CSSC. Ellen Waidner, now a UF DPT graduate, was a very active member of the first the oversight committee. Along with contributing to setting up multiple projects with her interprofessional peers, she assisted peers in the class of 2021 and 2022 to establish new community projects such as the Google classroom that provides videos of activities for kids at home, gratitude projects for the custodial staff, thank you letters that went to healthcare professionals, and helped recruit students from other groups in the College. The current representative is Tori Wyche of the class of 2022. Projects have included supporting meal delivery, assisting with COVID test and trace, vaccine initiatives, and outreach for encouraging vaccination uptake at health fairs organized by GHA.

Some of the recent discussions have centered around lessons learned during COVID and how those positive and negative experiences can lead to systems that allow nimble change. Over the past year we have been able to implement telehealth delivery for Equal Access, Gaitor Challenge, Community Health, and Children on the Go. We have also been able to recruit patients for class activities. These patient experiences have resulted in exceptional learning for our students while preparing them for this delivery mechanism that is likely to be important for future clinical practice. In the most recent Forum workshop, telehealth, increased digital education methods, need for nimble curriculum reviews and revisions, and connections across institutions were all discussed as important directions for faculty to consider. Two areas that have been part of previous discussions that have been highlighted is the increased need for training in difficult conversations and action around diversity, equity, and inclusion, a focus on faculty and student stress, and the implications for self-care.

  • What aspects of the forum’s work can you can bring back to the classroom as it relates to diversity, equity, and inclusion?

Prior to the spread of COVID-19, two forum workshops concentrated on social determinants of health. As healthcare providers, we need to look at the bigger picture of all factors impacting health for individuals but also embrace the health of the larger society. As a society, we tend to associate health outcomes with life choices, without considering the options within a geographical area or those options not available based on economic and racial disparities. In the past year, racial injustices and COVID-related health disparities have spotlighted the need for urgent change in all areas. There have been student-led and department initiatives to try to make a dent in this enormous challenge. The department taskforces led by research assistant professors Elisa Gonzalez-Rothi, DPT, PT, PhD, and Meryl Alappattu, DPT, PhD, are working on strategic planning, and the student DEI committees have been very active with initiating conversations.

Some of the materials and information generated from Forum discussions have been very useful for modules on  social determinants of health in the Health Promotion courses. These topics are also covered in the Introduction to Public Health course all students in the College take and the content has been expanded considerably in the Putting Families First seminars led by the IPE office. We have expanded some of the cultural competency coursework and Dr. Alappattu used the student-run panel and readings to stimulate discussion in Professional Issues I. There are plans to expand the content related to DEI throughout the curriculum. We have a long way to go in this very complex challenge facing society. Overall, an expanded focus on DEI and social determinants of health is aimed to prepare well-rounded clinicians who address patients’ priorities but also consider the full picture of all surrounding elements and history that impacts care.