National Academies of Practice advances interprofessional health care

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From Medicare reform to managed care to the opioid epidemic, the National Academies of Practice has taken on top issues in interprofessional health care since its founding in 1981 as an organization to advise governmental bodies. Veterinary medicine is one of the 14 academies that comprise the NAP.

Nicholas A. Cummings, PhD, came up with the idea for the NAP in 1976 while testifying on behalf of the American Psychological Association regarding Medicare reform before the Senate Finance Committee Subcommittee on Health.

"During the proceedings, he became disturbed at the complete lack of cooperation among the health care professional societies," according to a brief history of the NAP. "During dinner that same evening, Dr. Cummings suggested to his colleagues that what the Congress needed was an interdisciplinary body of health care practitioners that would set aside turf battles and advise Congress as to what was best for the American people."

The mission of the NAP calls for distinguished professionals to advance interprofessional health care both "by fostering collaboration and advocating policies in the best interest of individuals and communities."

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Members of the National Academies of Practice visit Capitol Hill in March to share information with policymakers about interprofessional health care. (Courtesy of Michelle Troseth)

"Interprofessional practice and interprofessional education are both a reality and a necessity for American health care professionals working in hospitals, medical groups, and community practice," said Dr. Stephanie R. Ostrowski, chair of the Veterinary Medicine Academy and an associate professor of public health at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Ostrowski said veterinary medicine informs human health care and vice versa in areas such as working animals and animal-assisted therapy, research on topics ranging from genetic diseases to cellular signaling to cancer, toxicology, diagnostic imaging, end-of-life care, ecosystems, and infectious disease.

She continued, "As veterinary medicine moves more and more into large group and corporate practice, we can learn from some of the experiences of what human medicine and the other academies have had to go through—and what truths they've learned, what paths they've discerned through all the challenges."

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Jody S. Frost, a doctor of physical therapy and president of the NAP, said governmental advocacy by the group includes policy papers and visits by members to Capitol Hill. The NAP currently is collaborating with other organizations on issues including health information technology and the opioid epidemic.

The NAP holds an annual meeting and forum on topics in interprofessional health care. In May, the organization launched a series of webinars on collaborative practice models. Starting in 2015, the NAP began publishing the quarterly Journal of Interprofessional Education & Practice, in affiliation with the University of Nebraska Medical Center, focusing on topics including education, practice, policy, and research.

The group has about 1,000 members. The membership categories are associate members, professional members, and distinguished fellows. Health care professionals interested in interprofessional care may self-nominate for associate membership and either self-nominate or be nominated by a colleague for professional membership if they have five or more years of experience making contributions to their field and interprofessional practice, scholarship, or public policy. Distinguished fellows must have been in practice for at least 10 years, have a record of distinguished contributions professionally and interprofessionally, and be nominated by a colleague.

Dr. Frost said the NAP is a warm, inviting, friendly group. She said, "If you're somebody who really believes in interprofessional practice or interprofessional education or scholarship, you're going to find that this is a great place to be."