Dean Voisin Talks Interprofessional Education (IPE)

Dexter Voisin sitting and smiling headshot

An experienced academic, researcher, educator, and social worker for almost three decades, Dexter Voisin became the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Dean in Applied Social in January 2022.
In his words…

What is an example of professional behavior that's necessary to succeed in an IPE environment?

A critical stance that would enable students to maximize their interprofessional education is a willingness to critically examine what you think you know about your profession and allied professions. During the past ten years, interprofessional education has gained momentum. There is an increasing awareness that to advance health outcomes and social equity,; we need multiple professions working together in concentrated ways, leaning into each other's strengths towards a common goal of supporting inclusive change. However, many professionals have limited views about the scope and breadth of social work; even some new social work students have limited perspectives about our profession. In IPE settings, many social work students and those from allied professions are discovering their voice and embracing an appreciation that the scope of social work practice is broad, if not boundless.

Are there any myths about social work that you’d like to bust?

I became an accidental social worker on my way to becoming a psychologist. I didn't even know there was a profession called social work. Over the past three decades, so many people have consistently told me that they also did not know about the social work profession or had minimal views of social work. They believed that social work was primarily about working with families and children in the welfare system or supporting individuals who need income assistance programs. Social workers do support these tasks, but they are so much more. We have called to promote a more inclusive and just society as a profession. This professional mission inherently requires us to work across multiple systems to examine and confront social injustice in society, as well as in the social injustice we contributed to as a profession. The broad training that social workers receive, especially at the Mandel School, to work across individual, group, family, community, and organizational levels enables social workers to work literally across every facet of society. I once saw a sticker somewhere that read, "I am a social worker. What is your superpower?" The list of professional opportunities for social workers is endless and these are just a few examples.
What excites you most about IPE?

Currently, IPE education primarily takes place within health care settings. This provides an integrated and interdisciplinary approach to addressing service delivery and health inequality. For instance, to address the higher burden of heart disease born by people living in under-resourced communities, we need doctors and nurses to provide patient education and care.—Dentists are needed to provide oral care and educate clients and patients about the connection between oral and heart health. We also need social workers who understand that housing segregation, poor health care access, a lack of transportation, and racial and economic bias within the healthcare system are social drivers of heart disease. Bringing social work and these and other allied professions together to bear on a single health care issue can be truly transformative.