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HLA House Project: Developing a Medical-Legal Collaboration for Victims of Intimate Partner Violence

Sept. 10, 2021

Students in the Health Leadership Apprentice Program, divided into “house” teams, work alongside Community-Driven Initiatives to help Central Texas community members address health-related issues. This post is by the 2020-2021 members of the Green House: Mahija Ginjupalli, Apoorva Kakkilaya, Todd Snow, Sanjana Shah, Katelyn Dockery and Vishal Patel.

As undergraduate students at The University of Texas at Austin, we joined the Health Leadership Apprentice Program in fall 2020 excited to contribute to a team impacting community health. Our group's intersecting interests ultimately led us to work with the Texas Advocacy Project, or TAP, an Austin-based legal organization dedicated to preventing and helping victims of interpersonal violence. We continued the efforts started by a prior house to develop and conduct an informative session for medical practitioners on the legal solutions available to victims of intimate partner violence with the hope of encouraging more collaboration with TAP in supporting these victims.

TAP is a legal organization whose mission is to support victims of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and stalking throughout Texas. Providing free legal representation and advocacy, TAP works tirelessly to advance its vision for all Texans to live free from fear. Intimate partner violence is far-reaching in its prevalence: One of three women will experience some violence each year, through which 10 million children are also exposed to the effects of violence. Further, there is correlation of the economic and social uncertainty surrounding the pandemic to the increase in the occurrences and intensity of domestic violence.

TAP conveyed a desire for a more formalized framework and increased collaboration with medical providers, aiming to build a working partnership with Dell Med to best aid victims and survivors of intimate partner violence in the Austin area. In this collaboration, TAP would provide training for health care providers, assisting them in identifying victims in need of legal support and informing them of the avenues available to best help their patients. They would also become involved in providing legal direction to patients as well as gathering information to refine and improve the partnership process. Considering the reported success of other similar medical-legal partnerships (86% of clinicians reporting improved health outcomes for patients when implemented), Green House wanted to help TAP in developing this partnership.

Green House was fortunate to have some foundation to aid TAP in this area. A prior house (2019 Blue House) initiated a relationship with TAP to plan and hold a lunch-and-learn event to be held spring of 2020. This event was cancelled due to COVID-19. This team acquired continuing medical education accreditation approval for the event and was in the process of gaining Institutional Review Board approval for several surveys designed for the event. Due to several members of the current team graduating and aligning interests, we rescheduled and continued efforts needed for this session, which included adapting the presentation for virtual delivery, incorporating information for COVID-19 and providing marketing and registration support.

Our efforts began with reviewing and incorporating the effects of COVID-19 on intimate personal violence into the presentation. With these changes, we needed to work with Dell Med to ensure that all continuing medical education requirements were still met since providing CME credit is instrumental to attracting attendance. We also reviewed the standard post-event survey to include any changes needed for virtual delivery and feedback desired by TAP. Although the prior house and our team planned to include additional information (gathered from participants or other research), these ideas had to be set aside as a next step for future sessions additional approvals and review.

With the presentation and post-event survey completed, we turned our focus to event marketing and logistics. Due to COVID-19, marketing was accomplished primarily by inclusion in Dell Med’s event schedule and emails sent to Dell Med’s internal distribution lists. With some last-minute support by Dell Med’s communications office, this session was also highlighted in the bi-weekly news email distributed to all Dell Med employees.

We plan to review survey feedback, summarize results and possibly offer recommendations to TAP to continue improving this session. Through this team effort, we have learned a great deal: the importance of reviewing needs in detail and planning ahead; being adaptable when things do not go as planned; and being proactive with next steps. We also learned how to take advantage of individuals’ strengths and how to be supportive of one another other to continue progress forward. While we are still determining our schedules for next semester, we hope to continue working with TAP to further their progress developing partnerships with other medical organizations.