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UTHSC and MIFA Launch Health Care Challenge


The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) has partnered with MIFA (Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association) to launch the first Health Care Challenge.

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) has partnered with MIFA (Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association) to launch the first Health Care Challenge. The competition gives UTHSC students from all six colleges the opportunity to develop a plan to address an array of health-related needs in a select group of senior citizens, who are living in the Memphis area and are served by MIFA.

Of the more than 91 students participating on 14 teams, only six teams will make it to the final round on Saturday, March 24. There six finalist teams will pitch their proposals to judges from MIFA and the community to win a $1,000 cash prize for each team member, and possibly, have their project put into action in the community.

“MIFA is excited to begin this new partnership with UTHSC’s Health Care Challenge. Our Senior Companion Program can only benefit from the expertise and contributions of these talented students. MIFA has relied on collaborations throughout its 44-year history, and we look forward to learning and growing through this opportunity as well,” said Sally Jones Heinz, executive director of MIFA.

The Health Care Challenge began as a way to strengthen interprofessional team collaboration and analytical skills, enhance leadership and conflict resolution abilities, and heighten awareness of the unique challenges facing individuals in our community who have limited resources. Thus, the competition will serve as training for when students graduate and practice health care on a broad scale. Faculty advisors, representing a wide range of health professions from across UTHSC, were assigned to the teams in order to guide students to possible resources available to complete the proposal development.

“Health Care Challenge has provided us with the unique opportunity to work toward a common goal with our peers from the various disciplines,” said team member Megan Perry, a doctoral candidate in the College of Pharmacy. “I firmly believe the community impact we can have together is far greater than that of any of us working alone.”

The Health Care Challenge teams were tasked to address health-related issues facing participants in MIFA’s Senior Companion Program, which pairs low-income able seniors with homebound, disabled or critically ill peers. Companions help with the many activities of daily living in order to provide caregivers (typically family members) with a much-needed break. There are currently more than 115 companions serving more than 600 clients in the community. Students will use their individual specialties, whether it is in occupational therapy, medicine, dentistry, or another health care focus, to provide a long-range plan to aid the peer-to-peer program, such as initiating health screenings or policy changes.

“The Health Care Challenge initiative created by UTHSC and MIFA has shown that our future health professionals have ‘the right stuff’ to genuinely care about underserved seniors,” stated team faculty advisor Linda L. Williford Pifer, PhD, professor in the Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences. “UTHSC should be tremendously proud of the intense groundswell of enthusiasm our students from all health science disciplines have shown for pitching in with MIFA to help our Memphis community seniors. Even with final exams pending, they have shown a real passion for helping those who have health concerns common to seniors.”

The proposals will be judged on feasibility, creativity, sustainability, appropriateness, consistency with MIFA and UTHSC’s missions, and on whether or not it truly reflects an interprofessional approach to health care. There will be a Health Care Challenge Recognition and Awards Ceremony to honor all of those involved on April 3.The Health Care Challenge is being coordinated by the Office of Interprofessional Education and Clinical Simulation at UTHSC.

Founded in 1968, MIFA serves 55,000 people annually as it works to unite our diverse community to address the challenges of poverty. Its mission is to engage the community, to sustain the independence of seniors, transform the lives of families in crisis, and equip teens for success.