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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

University of Bridgeport’s Integrative Clinic Shift: Collaborative Care Model Benefits Patients and Students

Feb 02, 2015 04:38PM ● By Ariana Rawls Fine

The University of Bridgeport’s (UB) College of Naturopathic Medicine has already earned some distinction by virtue of being one of less than 10 accredited naturopathic schools in the U.S. and the only one in the Northeast. The university—also home to several other professionally accredited health sciences programs, including the College of Chiropractic, Nutrition Institute, Acupuncture Institute and the Fones School of Dental Hygiene—is breaking more ground as it implements its Integrative Clinic Shift program.

The university has long offered affordable and high-quality holistic healthcare for area residents and underserved populations through the colleges’ teaching clinics. The UB clinics ( are located on the university’s campus near Seaside Park with a beautiful view of Long Island Sound. Typically, first-time patients make appointments with the respective college clinics without guidance from the school. Once a patient begins to see a student intern or team, they may be referred to the other clinics based on their health issues or treatment objectives. Although the initial decision of which college clinic to choose may be easier for those familiar with integrative medicine, it can be confusing for new patients with limited knowledge or exposure. If a patient chooses to be treated at more than one clinic, pertinent information will not be shared in this more isolated care model in the “real world.”

Recognition of the limitations of the isolated care approach prompted a long-term initiative to offer an integrated model as an option to all of the clinics’ patients. This new model is one where all involved caregivers work together and even collaborate for the benefit of the patient. In the new Integrative Clinic Shift, interns from the dental hygiene, acupuncture, chiropractic and naturopathic medicine colleges pool their knowledge in a thorough assessment session with the new patient and during case reviews with a licensed clinician supervisor.

Although the idea of the program brewed for some time, logistical issues first held back implementation. “Most of the programs for what we do are stand-alone programs for other universities. When we first started talking about integrated teams, we had to look at our individual schools’ requirements with their accreditors. Students had to have to have a certain number of hours in certain studies. How do we include that in an integrated program? What type of credits would they receive?” explains Jennifer Brett, ND, LAc, program director of the UB Acupuncture Institute and a driving force behind the integrated program.

The hour and a half assessment session, offered free to patients, includes a general intake and targeted exam for each of the fields. A pre-chosen student and supervisor lead the intake. During the assessment visit, the student interns review the patient’s health status, including full medical history, a screening exam, a spine, posture and gait analysis, a head and neck assessment, and an oral health screening. A 24-hour diet recall and review of supplements and prescription medications are conducted in addition to a traditional Chinese medicine health assessment.

“The chiropractic and naturopathic parts were very informative. I personally put myself on supplements but am I taking the right ones at the right doses? They have addressed that very well. There is a downside in that it is students doing this with the time constraint. But, because they are students, they are asking questions a practitioner might not ask. The learning situation is beneficial for everyone. Students need to learn with real people in real situations,” says Linda Cappiello, a Stratford resident and integrative clinic patient.

Following the initial assessment session, students conduct research and collaborate with their supervisors to discuss the findings and come up with a team report and plan of action. Using the treatment plan, the patient returns to the clinic under the discipline they are deemed to need the most. That discipline’s student provides them with the full team report and begins implementing the treatment plan.

“The overall opinion from the patients that I had was that they felt confident where they ended up. They felt heard. Because I was there for the initial assessment, I was also able to build a good relationship with the patient on their journey,” says Amanda Placeres, a fourth year naturopath student

The new program offers extensive benefits for both patients and interns. Not only do the students and their supervisors offer a multidisciplinary assessment of the optimal treatment plan for the patients’ complaints, but students gain exposure to the different approaches taken by each modality, including questions posed and varying ways of communicating.

“The first session is information gathering and decision making. Students are learning to work together. Only one is the lead for each visit. It forces them to pay attention to time and how to divide it among them. Students are surprised at what they can learn from each other,” says Marcia Prenguber, ND, FABNO, dean of the College of Naturopathic Medicine.

“You need to know when to step back because this person is more beneficial for this patient. Even though I can help, the other profession may be the best for them for their main complaint,” agrees Placeres.

The clinic’s staff sets up the necessary appointments to help each patient meet the health goals set by the patient and team. This may include reviewing the student interns’ health findings, getting preventive health education or receiving nutritional counseling or a list of potential medication interactions. Patients may receive acupuncture or chiropractic care as needed or be scheduled for a dental assessment and/or dental cleaning. Therapeutic exercises and/or nutritional, botanical or homeopathic supplements may be prescribed.

The new UB integrative clinic program offers area residents, students and supervisors a unique learning experience. Not only can the integrative care lead to an improvement in patients’ health with an individualized, multi-disciplinary plan of action but the clinic shift offers the university programs’ students a unique exposure to other types of care to expand their learning in school in preparation for their launch as practitioners.

“I think the integrative shift should be the first thing a new patient should do. Being able to organize complaints and direct them where to go is important. And every student needs to go through it. It is a great model for healthcare. If there was more collaboration and communication, we would have a healthier society. It would move forward the future of healthcare,” said Placeres.


Ariana Rawls Fine is Editor of Natural Awakenings Fairfield County. She resides in Stratford with her family.


All UB Clinics are located at 60 Lafayette Street in Bridgeport and can be reached at 203-576-4349.
Appointments with the Fones School of Dental Hygiene can be made at 203-576-4137.

UB Integrative Clinic Shift
Monday mornings

College of Chiropractic
Monday noon-6pm, Tuesday noon-4pm, Wednesday 1-6pm, Thursday noon-6pm and Friday 10am-2pm

College of Naturopathic Medicine
Monday 10am-6pm, Tuesday and Wednesday 2-6pm, Thursday 1-5pm and Friday 9am-1pm

Acupuncture Institute
Monday 10am-2pm, Tuesday 8am-5pm, Wednesday 8am-noon/1:30-5:30pm and alternate Saturdays 8am-noon

Fones School of Dental Hygiene
Monday through Friday, 8am-4pm