BU Incubator Interprofessional Leadership

Q&A: Exploring Alumni Mentoring at BU

Digital learning initiatives are happening across all BU campuses. This Q&A series highlights innovative ideas, collaborative thinking, cutting-edge perspectives and those leading the digital teaching and learning charge.

On October 3, 2019, two like-minded BU colleagues had a chance meeting. Karen Jacobs, Associate Dean of Digital Learning and Innovation at BU College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences [Sargent College], and Bronwyn Keefe, Research Assistant Professor at the School of Social Work, were attending Digital Learning & Innovation’s Teaching with Technology Festival and as fate would have it, the two sat at the same table and renewed their connection after several years of losing touch.

“We shared details about all our different projects and I became inspired by the interprofessional work that Bronwyn was doing as director of the Center for Aging & Disability Education & Research (CADER), and shared the interprofessional initiatives developed by Craig Slater at Sargent College,” says Jacobs. “This led to an initial meeting where we discussed ways to collaborate on an interprofessional certificate and engage alumni as part of this educational training.”

Over the next few months, the energized and innovative working group continued to meet. They shared ideas, vision, and developed a strategy around workforce training via alumni mentoring. This further led to proposal development for a DL&I Digital Education Incubator seed grant—an opportunity Jacobs and Keefe learned of while attending the 2019 Festival.

Here, with assistance from the DL&I Incubator, the Interprofessional Leadership in Healthcare Certificate Program pilot project was born.

“This is the first collaboration between Sargent College and the School of Social Work and we are thrilled to be working together,” says Keefe. “There is so much synergy between the core values of social work and rehabilitation sciences, which has made our work so exciting and impactful. We are confident that this will be the first of many collaborations between our schools.”

DL&I connected with Jacobs, Keefe, and Slater [all contributing to the responses below] to discuss how and why the alumni-focused mentoring project was initiated. The Q&A also spotlights the several teams behind the program build, program management and measurement, and more.


Please describe the need for interprofessional leadership skill-building in healthcare. What are some of the training and workforce challenges?

ALL: Healthcare has grown increasingly complex with a particular need to focus on the physical, social, behavioral, and functional aspects of daily living. Traditionally, care has been delivered in silos with single practitioners trying to do it alone with little communication among providers. This fragmentation and lack of coordination is not only a source of frustration for healthcare consumers, but also a barrier to quality care and a driver of healthcare costs

Empirical evidence is building and there is a strong belief among health policy makers that interprofessional teams are better able to coordinate and deliver such services, resulting in better healthcare and outcomes. Patient-centered care has also been associated with a wide variety of positive patient outcomes such as adherence to treatment, improved health, and satisfaction. Moreover, patient-centered care has been defined as one of six indicators of quality care by the International Organization of Migration.

To address these issues, healthcare providers have increasingly realized the importance of interprofessional collaborative practice. This newly created certificate will help provide healthcare professionals with the skills they need to better lead interprofessional teams, and deliver services which ultimately will result in better health care outcomes.  

By the Numbers: 

  • How many Alumni Advisory Board members are participating in the program?
  • How many alumni e-mentors are involved in the pilot?
  • What are your enrollment goals?

ALL: The Alumni Advisory Board includes 10 members who are graduates from the School of Social Work and Sargent College. These Board members have participated in a variety of interprofessional teams and projects. They share their expertise in roles such as the director of health policy and programs, clinic staff supervisor, clinical coordinator, a chief people and equity officer and as clinicians. For example, one member is the sports physical therapist for the Orlando Magic; and others work at healthcare institutions such as Stanford Health, Health Leads, Merrimack Urology Associates, Gallaudet University and St. Vincent Hospital.

Our alumni e-mentors include 30 participants who are piloting the certificate between February 2021 – June 2021. Three of our Alumni Advisory Board members are also alumni mentors. They have backgrounds in athletic training, medicine, nutrition, occupational therapy, public health, physical therapy, social work and speech language pathology. Their professional positions vary  across healthcare institutions such as Magee Rehabilitation Hospital, Boston Medical Hospital and CU Specialty Care in Highlands Ranch, CO.

The certificate program features five courses (four weeks each):

  • The Interprofessional Team
  • Effective Communication
  • Effective Supervision
  • Introduction to Interprofessional Leadership in Healthcare
  • Business Acumen  

All course content is mapped to Core Competencies for Interprofessional Collaborative Practice (IPEC, 2016) and Leadership Competencies for Healthcare Services Managers (ACHE, 2015). We’re anticipating that we will have more than 20 participants in the launch of the certificate in September 2021. 

Please describe the experience of building the certificate program including the role of the Alumni Advisory Board. 

ALL: Prior to submitting a proposal to DL&I, we distributed a survey to alumni at both Sargent College and the School of Social Work. We received a high level of interest for the certificate’s topic: interprofessional leadership in healthcare. Respondents were asked to share if they were interested in participating in the certificate either as an advisory board member or an alumni mentor for the certificate pilot. We were inundated with expressions of interest.

Our working group carefully reviewed interested respondents and invited 10 alumni from the various professions who had expertise in interprofessional practice to become board members. We met with the group multiple times and shared the syllabi for each course. The group provided thorough feedback, which was then incorporated into the final versions of the courses. They also shared practice scenarios which we incorporated into the course’s supplemental media that was produced to support the course content. Once the courses were nearly complete, we invited 30 of our interested alumni to be alumni mentors for the pilot phase which began on February 1, 2021.

What is Project Echo and what role does it have in the project?

Project ECHO BU

We learned about Project ECHO from a HRSA grant that Bronwyn had just received. HRSA identified Project ECHO in the funding announcement as a key clinical intervention and we were eager to learn more. Project ECHO is a lifelong learning and guided-practice model that revolutionizes medical education and exponentially increases workforce capacity to provide best-practice specialty care and reduce health disparities. The heart of the ECHO model™ is its hub-and-spoke knowledge-sharing networks, led by expert teams who use multipoint videoconferencing to conduct virtual clinics with community providers. In this way, primary care doctors, nurses, and other clinicians learn to provide excellent specialty care to patients in their own communities.

We were met with an enthusiastic response for our participation from the founder of Project ECHO, Dr. Sanjeev Arora, at the University of New Mexico. We enrolled in a three day training in May 2020 which was held virtually due to the pandemic. 

Tell us more about how the training videos were developed.

ALL: One interesting aspect of the project was the creation of scenario-based instructional videos during the COVID-19 pandemic. We recruited BU students from the College of Fine Arts (CFA) to be actors in six videos. The scripts were co-authored by Craig, Bronwyn and Karen and then made into a screenplay by a BU student, Rose-Emma Lambridis.

We were impressed with BU Instructional Production Services (IPS) as they found creative ways to film the videos, while maintaining physical distancing protocols. Safety was the guiding force, yet quality was not compromised. Each of the actors was filmed individually in clinic spaces at Sargent College. IPS employed creative filming approaches to give the illusion that the actors were talking to each other. Even with COVID-19 protocols, the video productions proceeded smoothly, and IPS was able to produce an exceptional end-product. The CFA students were also incredibly professional and helped us produce a series of short videos that represent the best of all the talent we have here at BU. 

What are the benefits of participating in the certificate program for students and alumni e-mentors, specifically relating to this alumni advising model?

ALL: We are seeing the benefits of participation in our weekly live Project ECHO sessions. Our alumni have full-time jobs, families, and many other competing pressures, yet every Monday from 8-9PM EST, we come together and share our experiences. Alumni are engaged and supportive – eager to learn from each other. For many of the participants, the opportunity to learn with, from and about other health professions, has been incredibly valuable.

This certificate pilot allows us to gain valuable feedback from participants about their experience in the program and its impact it has on their practice. As part of our evaluation, we are collecting data on pre- and post-competencies, course and program impact, and feedback on the courses so we can make any revisions before launching in the Fall.

What are your long-term goals and how will you measure program success?

ALL: Our long-term goal for this certificate program is to increase the confidence and skills of healthcare leaders, and positively impact the quality of healthcare provided to patients. Another long-term goal is to build upon Sargent College’s successful interprofessional education curriculum for graduate students and the certificate to expand our relationships across the BU community so that BU is recognized as both a national and international leader in this area. 

We plan to measure success based on alumni and student engagement including the numbers of alumni participating, the number of students who complete the certificate, and the impact of the training on participants’ ability to lead interprofessional teams. A metric for sustainability will be 20 participants enrolled each time the certificate is offered.

How would you describe the DL&I Incubator process?

ALL: The creation of the certificate was a team effort – we’re lucky to work with such collaborative and skilled professionals at DL&I. The Office of Distance Education (ODE) agreed to create the five courses. Leah Peterson became our instructional designer; and she worked closely with Craig in creating four courses and with Karen for the fifth course.

For the creation of media, we worked closely with Nancy Bartlett and Irene Su with DL&I’s Instructional Production Services. The close collaboration and project management received from DL&I is like no other grant support we have received. The DL&I Incubator team worked closely with us as we developed our proposal. They provided rich feedback which helped shape the development of the certificate. Once the proposal was approved, we worked closely with Diane Carroll who helped manage the project. 

For BU colleagues with an innovative digital education idea, what advice do you offer?

ALL: First, get to know the key areas of interest with the DL&I Incubator and see if they fit with your ideas. It’s helpful to review the list of current and past pilot projects listed on DL&I’s website to see what they’ve funded. It’s also  important to reach out and get to know the Incubator team – talk through your ideas – they will give you honest advice and guide you through the process.  When possible, look for collaborations across the University. This is beneficial for so many reasons and furthers the impact of your grant and the vision for DL&I. The Digital Education Incubator is an incredible opportunity at BU. If you have a suitable project, we highly recommend that you apply! 


For more information about the Interprofessional Leadership in Healthcare Certificate, please contact Karen Jacobs at kjacobs@bu.edu.

Learn more about DL&I’s Digital Education Incubator and view the Call for Proposals Guide.