Though it is difficult to predict the future, it is safe to say that collaborative, cross-disciplinary approaches to complex societal problems are here to stay. This is evidenced by team science, a collaborative and cross-disciplinary approach that has accomplished biomedical breakthroughs once considered impossible. Making the most of the opportunities that team science has to offer may seem fraught with the challenges of adapting from a solo-investigator culture to one of collaboration; however, new advances become possible through this methodology.

The science of team science is a new interdisciplinary field that empirically provides a better understanding of how teams connect and collaborate to achieve scientific breakthroughs that would not be attainable by individual efforts. As described in the collaboration and team science: field guide, many factors, such as self–awareness, emotional intelligence, trust, shared vision, communication, effective leadership, mentoring and conflict management have been identified as necessary to build successful partnerships among team members.

Due to its complexity, health care education mandates interaction between basic scientists, health care professionals and non–clinical staff with differing skill sets and practice cultures in the routine delivery of medical education curriculum. This brings with it the challenge of integrating professionals from diverse personal and professional cultures to train future physicians and scientists. Amid this challenge, medical schools do not operate their training programs in collaborative models. Given the rate of technological and process advancement in health care, we must develop training with a greater depth of technical and teaming skills to ensure the effective and efficient performance of complex, interdependent tasks. However, the majority of medical school programs operate on a “2+2” model, consisting of basic science years followed by clinical years. This model of training may be outdated and hinder the capacity to effectively exchange information and develop trusting, collaborative relationships across disciplinary boundaries. Based on their specialized training, it is natural for basic scientists and clinicians to work in silos. Nevertheless, in this era of rapid knowledge generation, it is crucial for scientists and clinicians to communicate effectively in translating information at the same pace at which it is generated.

The necessity to confront these challenges brings a famous Albert Einstein quote to mind, “We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” The new era in health care demands a fresh approach to health care education in the classroom, simulation center and beyond. Those of us who are passionate about academic medicine need to consider new approaches to building collaborative teams as our culture evolves into one that is more dynamic and responsive to social and economic changes. 

The perspective in this blog post was originally presented as a workshop at the 2018 HMI Leading Innovations in Healthcare and Education course.




Cooke NJ, Hilton, ML. Editors. Enhancing the Effectiveness of Team Science. 2015. Committee on the Science of Team Science; Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences; Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education; National Research Council. National Academies Press.

  1. Hall KL, Vogel AL, Huang GC, Serrano KJ, Rice EL, Tsakraklides SP, Fiore SM. 2018. The science of team science: A review of the empirical evidence and research gaps on collaboration in science. The American Psychologist, May-Jun;73(4):532-548.
  2. Bennett, ML, Gadlin H, Marchand C. Collaboration and Team Science: A Field Guide. May 2018.


Darshana Shah, PhD

Darshana Shah, PhD. (Leading Innovations in Healthcare and Education, 2004) is Professor of Pathology and Associate Dean for the Office of Faculty Advancement at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. She is the Founding Editor-in-Chief of the Marshall Journal of Medicine (MJM) Darshana’s areas of professional interest include faculty vitality and retention. You can follow her on LinkedIn or Twitter @DarshanaShah.