John Gilbert during his plenary address at the 1st AfrIPEN Symposium in WindhoekDuring the week of September 17, AfriPEN took another giant step forward in its development as the “go to” organization for interprofessional education and collaborative practice in sub-Saharan Africa. From the 17th through the 20th, at the University of Namibia, a group of colleagues from eight countries engaged in a collaborative research workshop that it was my pleasure to facilitate with colleagues Dr. Jill Thistlethwaite from Sydney, and Dr. Susan Van Schalkwyk from Cape Town.

The broad foci of the workshop included work on what constitute good research questions in IPE/IPP/IOC, how those questions might be addressed through quantitative and qualitative measures, and how data generated can be translated into articulate prose that conveys the knowledge into workplace – both education and practice settings.

We enjoyed very fruitful discussions about how IPE is being constructed in the countries represented at the workshop, how to write as a team and how to use theories to inform research studies and in interpreting results. The outcome of those discussions led to the formation of three research groups who developed: a key research question, how the study would be designed, the rationale for the study and the methodology to be used. The entire group talked about the concepts of analysis and synthesis presented by Susan and Jill, and we concluded with each group presenting its proposal, and the plan for the work to be conducted in the next 12 months.
Thanks to the superb organization of Stefanus and Marius, we enjoyed three wonderful dinner outings which allowed us to get to know each other, and to talk informally about all matters IPE.

On Thursday and Friday, we joined many other colleagues for the First Symposium for Interprofessional Education in Africa, held in the Faculty of Medicine building at the University of Namibia. Jill and I presented on two different topics each day, and listened to a series of most interesting oral presentations from universities in South Africa. It was fascinating to hear the work on the continuum of IPE/IPP/IPC that is already under way in South Africa, and to be engaged in a World Café that focused on sharing resources and case studies to develop competencies for IPP. It was again a pleasure to participate in a great dinner celebration at the end of the first day, organized by Stefanus and Marius. On Friday, we met for half a day – heard more excellent oral presentations from universities in South Africa, Jill talked about the work the three groups had developed in the research workshop and I shared thoughts about faculty development for engaging in interprofessional education and learning.

When the workshop was envisaged in June 2016, the AfrIPEN team developed aims, which on reflection I believe not only met, but exceed expectations: to reach a common understanding of what is meant by the concept “collaborative research”, to share what the participating institutions are doing regarding IPE or relevant HPE research, to agree upon a focus area for collaborative IPE research, to start working on a protocol and funding proposal and to build trust relationships needed for effective collaboration.

I believe that both the Research Workshop and the Symposium were resounding successes, and I am sure that the next Symposium – to be held in Kenya, will be eagerly anticipated. It was a huge pleasure to be with wonderful group of colleagues who are now also friends. I look forward to the outcomes of the work of the research groups.

John H.V. Gilbert, C.M., Ph.D., LLD., FCAHS
Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia.
Adjunct Professor, Dalhousie University.
DR. TMA Pai Endowment Chair in Interprofessional Education & Practice, Manipal University.
Adjunct Professor, University of Technology, Sydney
Senior Scholar, WHO Collaborating Centre on Health Workforce Planning & Research, Dalhousie University.
Founding Chair, Canadian Interprofessional Health Collaborative.