PURPOSE: Tobacco dependence remains the leading cause of premature death in the United States, killing half its victims and causing 423,595 deaths/year. It is exceptionally cost-effective to treat, yet tobacco-dependence basic science knowledge and clinic diagnostic and treatment skills remain largely untaught in the United States' medical, nursing, dental, or pharmacy schools. We wanted to explore methods to integrate tobacco-dependence education and training into all healthcare professional schools.
METHODS: The Palo Alto Center for Pulmonary Disease Prevention (PACPDP) chose to partner with Loma Linda University (LLU) because it has graduate schools for all four, major, health-science disciplines and has a 100-year-old campus-wide mission to prevent and treat tobacco dependence. We initially revised and updated the School of Medicine's (SM) thorough, 4-hour, pre-clinical workshop and the School of Pharmacy's (SP) 9 hours of pre-clinical content in tobacco-dependence diagnosis and pharmacotherapy. Using a heuristic methodology for curriculum and faculty development, we fostered discipline-specific curricular changes and initiated interdisciplinary clinical rotations for LLU's Schools of Nursing (SN), Pharmacy (SP), and Dentistry (SD). Faculty attended national, scientific tobacco and nicotine meetings to increase knowledge and competence by interacting with international experts.
RESULTS: From February 2007 through December 2009, the number of basic science hours taught in each of the four professional schools increased a substantial 3- to 6-fold (e.g., 1 hour to 6 hours). Clinical training hours increased overall from 0 to 4, with the School of Medicine adding a 4-week elective rotation. The greater the direct support from the Dean's office in each school, the faster and greater the faculty and curricular change.
CONCLUSION: Major curricular change in tobacco-dependence basic-science and clinical training can occur rapidly in all four, major health-science schools by interweaving content into existing courses and clerkships. Doing so required consistent, unwavering support from the University Chancellor and Deans.
CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: Implementing interdisciplinary curricular change will enable the forthcoming generation of healthcare professionals to be vastly more effective in diagnosis and treatment of tobacco dependence, reducing healthcare costs substantially.
DISCLOSURE: David Sachs, No Financial Disclosure Information; No Product/Research Disclosure Information