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Texas A&M Health students compete at national interprofessional health competition

Two public health students and a pharmacy student represented Texas A&M Health at the 2024 CLARION Case Competition in Minneapolis
Ssu-Yu Yeh, Janet John and Kyla Brown pose for a photo

An interprofessional team of students from the Texas A&M University Health Science Center (Texas A&M Health) took the stage in Minneapolis on April 12 at the national CLARION Case Competition to present their proposed solution to a simulated health challenge. Kyla Brown, a senior public health student on the team, took home the Best Presenter Award for “excellent oral presentation skills.”  

Kyla Brown
Kyla Brown, a senior public health student at Texas A&M, won the award for Best Presenter at the national CLARION Case Competition. (Contributed photo)

Brown, along with Janet John, a first-year pharmacy student, and Ssu-Yu Yeh, a doctoral public health student, earned the honor of presenting on the national stage by winning the local competition hosted by the Texas A&M Health Office of Interprofessional Practice, Education and Research on March 9.  

The CLARION Case Competition involves interprofessional teams of students from at least two different health disciplines who are given a case and charged with creating a root cause analysis and devising an innovative solution. They have about three months to prepare before presenting a 15-minute proposal to a panel of senior-level health executives that evaluates their analysis in the context of real-world standards of practice. Eleven teams from universities around the nation took part in the national competition. 

The theme for year’s competition was trust, communication and equity in emergency response and preparedness. Teams got to choose a case from one of three different settings—food processing, retirement homes and education. The Texas A&M Health team chose to focus on education. Specifically, they were tasked with helping a Minneapolis school district superintendent address four concerns surrounding a developing pandemic: mistrust, misinformation, vaccine hesitancy and health disparities. 

“We chose to focus on education because I had been in high school during the COVID-19 pandemic, and I think that’s the one that was most applicable to all of us,” Brown said. 

The team’s proposal involved working with the local government and university to create a four-pronged approach. To address mistrust, misinformation and vaccine hesitancy, the team would train ambassadors from the community to communicate information about the disease and vaccine in a culturally relevant way. The team also proposed hosting vaccine workshops at trusted locations such as schools, and developing a social media campaign that would be centralized at the Minnesota Department of Health and distributed to local health departments throughout the state. To address health disparities, the team proposed university student-led technology tutoring for families, enabling parents and their children to continue working and attending school from home during lockdown. 

Sherry Lin, PhD, MPH, instructional associate professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, served as the team’s faculty advisor. “I was very inspired by this group because they are so open to comments from the team, from the judges and from the observers. They were able to put that feedback together and demonstrate that they care about each other, and it showed during the presentation that they cared about the people their project aimed to help,” she said. “This team’s presentation was very cohesive and was a complete project.” 

“I think the most helpful part for us to come up with this solution is the root cause analysis,” Yeh said. “All of us looked at the evidence from either research or newspapers. And from that we were able to understand the causes behind those four concerns and came up with these solutions.”  

Drawing on their public health background, Yeh and Brown wanted to ensure their approach considered social determinants of health and included culturally relevant information delivered by members of the community they were trying to help. As a pharmacy student, John says the experience widened her perspective on health care. 

“It was fun getting to work with other professionals from different schools. I knew the impact of public health and health care, so it was really nice to see it reinforced,” she said. “I learned about the epidemiology side of things and the spread of diseases. Public health professionals collect the data, and this data helps us, as pharmacists, understand exactly where the problem is and where to start addressing it. It was cool to see how pharmacists can play a role in public health, too.” 

John’s teammates agreed on the value of this unique interprofessional learning experience. 

“As a doctoral student, most of the time you will focus on your research and deepen your understanding in your field, so you usually don’t have a lot of opportunity to work with people from other disciplines that are totally different from yours,” Yeh said. “This was a very good opportunity for me to learn how to work with people from other disciplines and apply their perspectives to my field, which is very important.” 

“The whole thing was about being able to work in an interdisciplinary environment, but we were actually able to see it in action at the CLARION competition, and it was super cool seeing everyone’s field and seeing how it all comes together,” Brown said. 

The Office of Interprofessional Practice, Education and Research (IPER) has been involved with CLARION since 2018. In 2021, the team from Texas A&M Health won the national competition. Students from all five schools at Texas A&M Health are invited to participate in the annual event. The faculty who served as judges for this year’s local CLARION competition represented four of the five Texas A&M Health schools. They are Roque Ruggero, MD, from the School of Medicine in Round Rock, Frank North, PharmD, MPA, RPh, from the Rangel School of Pharmacy, Leroy Marklund, DNP, MPH, RN, from the School of Nursing, and Angela Clendenin, PhD, MA, from the School of Public Health. 

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