You are sick.
You are hospitalized with some kind of mysterious ailment. The initial examination reveals a respiratory problem, but the exact diagnosis, and therefore the recommended course of action remains elusive.
As you lay in your hospital bed, feeling entirely unwell, concerned and nervous about your well-being, at least you can be comforted in the knowledge that by good fortune you are under the care of knowledgeable and experienced doctors, nurses, social workers, and law students.
Hold on a minute - social workers and law students?
What the heck?
I recently read an article about the University of Maryland Medical Center Pediatric Clinic's practice of involving cross functional teams of professionals and students in its assessment and treatment of its pediatric patients. A given patient's condition and potential treatment is discussed in a collaborative manner by medical professors, seasoned doctors, first-year residents, medical students, and even professionals and students from the schools of pharmacy and law.
What possibly could a law student or social worker have to offer in the diagnosis of a patient's respiratory condition? Would a law student be able to discern pneumonia from an X-Ray? Would a social worker be qualified to accurately assess asthma from a stress test?
No and no. But expertise from these non-medical disciplines might have important insights to offer the attending physicians about the patient's environment; about the external forces of community, family, or living conditions that might factor in to a more well-informed evaluation of the circumstances surrounding the patient. These 'non-experts' might indeed be able to provide valuable insight that ultimately could impact and improve the treatment of the patient.
And even if the law student can't offer any relevant or precise contribution to a specific patient's care, the benefits that accrue to the law student, and the doctors, and the pharmacists, etc. from this kind of up close, in depth, and important exposure and collaboration can't be discounted.
Dr. Jay Perman, the President of the University believes that if students from different schools watch one another in action, they will gain greater understanding of each discipline's value to a given case. In turn, he believes patients will receive more comprehensive care.
Collaboration and inclusion of cross-disciplinary teams to serve dual purposes - to better solve the immediate problem, i.e. treating and curing the patient; and the longer term and broader goal of developing more well-rounded and capable professionals that have a better understanding and appreciation of the point of view and challenges of their colleagues from complementary disciplines.
It is an interesting approach to what has to be considered a typical process in the medical field. Does the inclusion of professionals and students so as to form a cross-functional team really improve patient outcomes and enhance professional development?
Hard to say for sure, since the practice is still in early days.
But I suppose we could ask the question this way - How much can you truly learn if you are only surrounded by people that have undergone the exact same training and education programs as you?
Could you ever see a problem differently, and perhaps offer up a different answer if you have been trained and socialized in the same way as all your peers?
Would it make sense to ask Marketing, or Purchasing, or Sales their opinion once in a while? Or are you pretty sure you know it all?
What do you think?