Convergence called key to accreditation

By Erin Prather Stafford

UT Southwestern is implementing a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) for its three degree-granting institutions. The plan will aid students’ learning by increasing their knowledge and understanding of common diseases and enhancing their ability to communicate this knowledge to peers, professionals, patients and the public.

The QEP, which is known as Convergence, is a requirement of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) for any university that seeks to be accredited.

The mission of SACS is to enhance educational quality and to improve the effectiveness of institutions by ensuring they meet standards established by its higher education community that address the needs of society and students. Representatives from the organization are scheduled to visit UT Southwestern early next year.

“Convergence is our approach to creating an academic and institutional culture that not only appreciates and values the need for interprofessional training, but also provides opportunities for effective integration of this knowledge and skill into health care research or delivery prior to graduation,” said Dr. Susan Cox, associate dean for medical education.

The plan has been in development for two years. A committee was formed to implement it, and the Faculty Senate brought together students, residents and administrators from the three schools to assist with its development. Convergence will employ individual components from each school and combined components that include courses or programs selected from among the schools.

One such component is a campus-wide event called Learning Community Days, the first of which will take place in 2010. Learning Community Days will focus on one of eight health categories and bring together students from all three schools.

Dr. Cox stressed that Learning Community Days and other parts of the QEP are critical because they provide an opportunity for effective integration between the UT Southwestern Medical School, UT Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and UT Southwestern School of Health Professions.

“Convergence began because of a SACS QEP requirement,” said Dr. Alfred Gilman, provost, executive vice president for academic affairs and dean of the medical school. “However, we have found the process to be gratifying and look forward to improving our students’ education though these efforts.”