As society continues to embrace integrative healthcare models, students pursuing careers in wellness disciplines and health professionals that want to enhance skills they can offer to patients are seeking formal training to meet current needs. Because of today’s growing demand for collaborative care, Parker University, in Dallas, has developed curricula that employ more interdisciplinary approaches.
“Eastern and conventional medicine both work well, but when you combine the disciplines, they work even better,” advises Dr. Tammy Fogarty, dean of health and human performance. “We like to use a collaborative approach, not just in academics, but also in our on-campus clinics.”
In addition to being ambitious, compassionate and energetic, students are prepared for careers as industry leaders with techniques and knowledge gained from real-world experience. Founder Dr. James Parker established a set of principles that continues to guide students on a campus that honors tradition, but encourages innovation.
Parker University offers a wide variety of degree programs, including bachelor’s degrees in integrative health, psychology, strength and human performance, as well as associate degrees in massage therapy, occupational therapy assistant and radiologic technology. Several online master’s degrees are also offered in functional nutrition, strength and human performance, neuroscience and clinical neuroscience, and public health. The university continues to offer the doctor of chiropractic degree. Due to their diverse offerings, Parker is fortunate to have a faculty from different health-related fields that contributes to its interdisciplinary approach to health and wellness. “In our programs, the curriculum encourages students to identify the root cause of an ailment or disease, and in some instances, they need to seek treatment options outside of one field,” Fogarty says. “Our chiropractic students, while going through the chiropractic program, are eligible to enroll in any of our master’s degree programs. When they graduate, not only are they chiropractors, but they also have a master’s in a complementary field. This gives them an opportunity to provide an interdisciplinary approach to health and wellness.”
Fogarty cites Parker’s neuroscience program as another example of the university’s interdisciplinary approach. The new Synapse: Human Performance Center exemplifies this approach by offering the latest in neuroscience and evidence-based therapies for patients and brings together diverse healthcare professionals to one location. This protype clinic showcases professionals from such diverse fields as chiropractic, neurology, physiology, occupational therapy, massage therapy and nutrition, working together to provide a patient-centered, collaborative approach to care. Fogarty says that when chiropractors attend continuing education seminars, they take an hour-long class in nutrition or exercise training to earn continuing education credits, but there’s no formal education. “So, what we can offer our students is to not only graduate with a chiropractic degree, but also a master’s degree in a related field they want to specialize in.”
The master’s degree in functional nutrition is an interprofessional graduate program for chiropractors, doctors of osteopathic medicine, nurse practitioners, exercise physiologists and dietitians seeking to enhance their skills and promote nutrition education in a variety of settings at the mastery level. The program’s mission is to provide graduates with the ability to communicate the link between functional nutrition, health promotion and disease prevention with more extensive credentials. “We have chiropractors, nurses and nurse practitioners that are enrolling into the program,” Fogarty explains. “They are licensed professionals. Within their license, nutrition is included in their scope of practice, but they don’t have formal training. We’re starting to see more healthcare practitioners that want to be able to offer nutrition to their clients, but want more than just a certification.”
Parker University is also developing bridge programs that more easily allow students to gain knowledge across disciplines to better serve patients. “We offer our students a variety of degrees, so they can earn an associate’s, bachelor’s and a master’s degree in another field that supports a collaborative health approach,” Fogarty concludes.