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Five Questions with Steve Karas, PT, DSc, CMPT

Name: Steve Karas
Title: Assistant Professor (PT, DSc, CMPT)
Joined Chatham: Jan 2009
Born & Raised: Pittsburgh, PA
Interests: Cycling, Running, Travel, Hemingway

 

 

1. What was your first job and what did you learn from it?

My first PT job was at Shadyside hospital. I worked with athletes, patients after joint replacements, patients in the hospital, and those receiving cardiac care. I learned that although medicine tends to compartmentalize, having experience in several areas will strengthen your personal discipline and ability to think and reason.

2. What aspect of your life before teaching best prepared you to do so?

My mom was a teacher, and even when she came home she worked on lesson plans and creative ways to teach. She taught at a lower-income schools with disciplinary issues, but she loved to teach and would talk about the successes of individual students, some of whom were first to attend college in their family. Watching someone who loves what they do played a role in my decision to teach.

3. What makes teaching at Chatham special for you? 

I graduated from the first PT class. I was able to come back to be a teaching assistant, then help in class, and when the faculty position was offered to me, I was very grateful. I felt like it was my opportunity to influence the next generation of physical therapists and work among a very impressive faculty. I feel bad for people who don’t like their job, because I love mine.

4. What is your favorite thing about working with Chatham students?

 The moment I realize they know more than me.

5What one thing would your students be surprised to know about you?

I am jealous of them. They are learning at a time when information is readily available and the world is smaller than ever. They are all in a position to change the world.

Steve Karas is an assistant professor in the Physical Therapy program.  When he’s not working, he’d rather be watching the sun set over Grace Bay with a San Pellegrino and lime.

 

interprofessional education in the health sciences

operation sn
Image courtesy Operation Task Force

Here’s one goal of Chatham’s 2015-2016 Interprofessional Education (IPE) kickoff event:

Understand a significant multidisciplinary health care issue that impacts patient/clients across all health care arenas.

With the selection of Dr. Jim Withers of UPMC Mercy, Chatham’s IPE Task Force hit the nail on the head. On September 17, Withers gave a moving presentation called “Street Medicine in Pittsburgh”* about the work of Operation Safety Net, an organization he helped found that brings medical care to homeless individuals.

His rapt audience? Two hundred and fifty Chatham students from the counseling psychology, nursing, occupational therapy, physician assistant studies, and physical therapy programs who are participating in this year’s IPE educational sequence.

“Have the courage to move into things that are challenging. You’ll learn a lot and feel better about yourself as a clinician.”
– Dr. Jim Withers

You might consider Withers’s work Problem-Based Learning at its most pure. “We were learning how to learn,” Dr. Withers—named by CNN as one of their 10 Heroes of 2015—told students. “We were leaning how to create healthcare not in a clinic, but grounded in the realities of people.”

It was an especially germane point to make: Reality is nothing if not interdisciplinary. That’s one reason why IPE is rapidly gaining ground internationally, with institutions free to define what it means and how it is best inculcated.

At Chatham, IPE is a two-semester program in which interdisciplinary groups of 10-12 students are assigned to one of six Chatham IPE Task Force faculty facilitators from disciplines spanning the School of Health Sciences. Groups and facilitators meet outside of class, once in the fall and once in the spring. Through case studies, discussion, lectures, videos, group activities, and role play, they work on strengthening competencies as set forth by the Interprofessional Education Collaborative:

  • Values/Ethics for Interprofessional Practice
  • Roles/Responsibilities
  • Interprofessional Communication
  • Teams and Teamwork

“The goal of interprofessional education at Chatham is to prepare students in nursing, psychology, physician assistant studies and occupational and physical therapy to learn from and about each other’s professions in order to practice as part of a collaborative, patient centered team. It is well documented that when practitioners from various backgrounds communicate and work together, the highest quality of care is delivered,” says School of Health Sciences Dean Pat Downey, PT, PhD, DPT.

“Our programs have incorporated interprofessional activities in the classroom for years,” says Jodi Schreiber OTD, OTR/L, Chair of Chatham’s IPE Task Force and Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy. “But when we saw that it could be formalized into an educational sequence, we realized that doing so would be a big advantage to our students.”

Chatham has had an IPE Task Force since 2013, and is strongly committed to strengthening the program. In 2014, the Task Force gave three presentations at an international conference. Topics included IPE challenges, opportunities and research; student perceptions; and supporting competency and identity development.

“We want to see if IPE makes a difference when students go into clinical practice,” says Schreiber.

Upon completion of the sequence, a total of nine hours, students are issued a certificate of participation, appropriate for inclusion in a professional portfolio. “Placement coordinators that we talk to are impressed that our students have interprofessional experience,” notes Schreiber.

Serving on the Task Force along with Schneider are Susan HawkinsStacie Agnesi, and Kelly Donkers from physician assistant studies; MaryDee Fisher from nursing; Sarah Jameson from physical therapy; and Anthony Goreczny from psychology.

* You can watch “Street Medicine in Pittsburgh” here.