Celina Flocks Monaghan presents at CLARION competition

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Celina Flocks Monaghan, a USF College of Public Health MPH student with a concentration in global health practice, recently competed at the CLARION National Case Competition, held in April at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

CLARION is a University of Minnesota student organization dedicated to improving health care through inter-professional collaboration.

CLARION teams consist of four student members who represent at least two different health professions. In addition to Flocks Monaghan, who represented the COPH, the other USF team members came from the disciplines of medicine, physical therapy and pharmacy.

Teams are given a case study and are then charged with creating a root-cause analysis. A panel of interdisciplinary judges evaluates each analysis and then determines first-, second- and third-place winners who split $15,000 in scholarship awards.

This year, 16 teams from schools across the country took part in the competition.

Celina Flocks Monaghan, left, with Bryan Figler (Pharmacy), Andrea Roca (Biomedical Sciences) and Ali Cochrane (Physical Therapy). (Photo by Amy Phillips, USF Health Shared Student Services)

The USF team was comprised of members of the USF Health Executive Student Leadership Board, a group that voices students’ perspectives on changes and programs within USF Health. The board was encouraged to form a team—the first from USF to ever present at the competition—at the behest of Dr. Sandra Potthoff, chair and professor of health policy and management, who recently came to USF from the University of Minnesota. Dr. Potthoff was one of the founding faculty members of the CLARION National Case Competition.

This year’s case study focused on how the opioid epidemic in an imaginary town in rural West Virginia impacted two fictional characters, George and Bethany.

“Both were struggling with addiction to pain medicines, trauma from the loss of loved ones and chronic pain from work injuries,” said Flocks Monaghan. “The town, its population and the contributing factors leading to the addiction were thoroughly described. The case writers really gave the team the opportunity to tackle the problem from a myriad of directions.”

Flocks Monaghan and the USF team devised a program called S.T.E.P.S (Success in Treatment, Education and Prevention Systems).

“Our proposal covered everything from drug take-back days to increased access to naloxone [a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose] to support groups that work with coal miner unions,” pointed out Flocks Monaghan. “By reducing drug overdoses, we even identified savings that we could use to turn the town’s abandoned coal mine into a telemedicine clinic, where a patient could receive a diagnosis from a medical professional via Skype or a phone call.”

A freak (even by Minnesota standards) spring snowstorm couldn’t dampen the students’ bullish spirit! “As a group of Florida natives, we were definitely unprepared,” laughed Flocks Monaghan. (Photo by Amy Phillips, USF Health Shared Student Services)

The students had roughly two months to develop their root-cause analysis—not long when you consider the competing time and schedule conflicts of four graduate students.

“By the time we competed, we knew the case and our solutions to it thoroughly,” said Flocks Monaghan. “The great thing about the coursework at the COPH is that case studies and intervention strategies have almost become second nature. I think the biggest contribution I made from a public health perspective was making sure we started with the root-cause analysis before diving right into intervention ideas.”

While the USF group did not place (Des Moines University and Drake University took first place), Flocks Monaghan was pleased with the team’s performance.

“Health care is a field where individuals often approach things with a single view specific to their field of study,” she said. “A pharmacist, for example, may only see a drug-based method of treatment rather than addressing a broader root and providing nonclinical solutions. This experience truly opened all of our eyes to the importance of interdisciplinary health care collaboration.”

And even better than a prize, said Flocks Monaghan, was the sense that she contributed to a solution to a gnawing and escalating problem in this country.

“At the awards dinner, one of the panelists—a nurse in West Virginia who is also a recovering opioid user—gave a moving speech about her experiences and how so many in West Virginia feel forgotten. The fact that these teams came together and put so much effort and empathy into finding a solution to this state’s opioid problem meant so much to her. Hearing that made all the work worth it,” she said.

Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health