Shorten receives UAB Provost Award

Professor Allison Shorten recognized for excellence in learning in a team environment

Allison Shorten

By Erica Techo

University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Nursing Professor and Chair of the Department of Acute, Chronic & Continuing Care, and Director of the Office of Interprofessional Curriculum Allison Shorten, PhD, RN, FACM, FAAN, has received the 2020 Provost’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Learning in a Team Environment.

Each year, the Provost’s Awards for Faculty Excellence are presented to UAB faculty who demonstrate a commitment to engaging undergraduate students in research, creative activities, and service learning experiences. The Provost’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Learning in a Team Environment was first presented in 2019, making Shorten the second individual to receive this recognition.

“Receiving this was so exciting because it represents what I am most passionate about. When I arrived at UAB and accepted the position as Director of Interprofessional Curriculum, I could see tremendous scope for creating new learning opportunities for students, and I love building creative programs in education,” Shorten said. “The Office of Interprofessional Curriculum has come a long way in the last several years, and it has been so uplifting to see the many new interprofessional experiences that we’ve created for students come to life, and to receive recognition for that.”

Since joining UAB in 2017, Shorten has launched an interprofessional leadership fellows program, partnered with the Center for Teaching and Learning, to develop a certificate in teaching interprofessional teams in healthcare, and initiated the first annual interprofessional symposium at the University. Her efforts, and the efforts of the Office of Interprofessional Curriculum, have influenced numerous faculty and students alike.

“When faculty leave one of our workshops motivated to try new teaching ideas, and then come back and share that the ideas worked really well, that excites me as a teacher,” Shorten said.

An example of Shorten’s collaborative leadership is in co-developing the SHARP program — Students Helping At-Risk Patients — which has grown from 30 to 370 students over three cohorts. Within the program, teams of students from nursing, medicine and public health use telehealth to interact with patients in the community, learn about social determinants of health and put together the pieces of interprofessional teamwork. They help patients navigate their lifestyle and health care plan using knowledge and skills from multiple professions. “We’re an interprofessional team of faculty working with an interprofessional team of students, which is really exciting,” Shorten said. “SHARP students reach out to patients in amazing ways, helping them navigate barriers to health, even working to arrange food packages, nutrition education, exercise plans and community services. They quickly understand that health care is about so much more than the treatments we prescribe, and patients truly benefit from health professions working together.”

Shorten’s passion for interprofessional learning goes back to her time as a nursing student, when she observed how different professions could come together to improve patient care.

Shorten is an Australian registered nurse and midwife, and her pioneering work in women’s health care, alongside her birth choices decision aid research, further emphasize the importance of interprofessional teams.

“As a researcher, I could see where I needed others — economists, psychologists, information technology specialists, statisticians, etc.,” Shorten said. “I’ve always been deeply appreciative of other professions and how they can add value to research and innovation, so it always made sense for me to reach out to other professions.”

The Provost’s Award is “all about interprofessional teamwork,” and Shorten said she credits UAB and its faculty for always being open to collaboration. Without the willingness to emerge from professional silos, and work together, interprofessional curriculum would not be possible.

“UAB is a very special place. When I first visited, I said to my family back in Australia that it was a hidden gem,” Shorten said. “The more time you spend at UAB, the more you realize how unique it is. It’s an incredible place, full of people willing to work together to make great things happen.”

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