THE INTERDISCIPLINARY TEAM:
Mary C. Howell and Henry A. Beyer
Process of Working Together
by Mary C. Howell
The Kennedy Aging Project began with certain requirements and expectations with regard to faculty, students, and staff. We were to assemble a faculty who could teach students who were enrolled in professional training, on a field-placement model. We wished to bring together as broad a spectrum of health-related professions as possible. There were exigencies of time (the team needed to be assembled in a matter of a few weeks), of geography (we had time only to recruit faculty participants from the Boston area), and of funds (even with the generous funding of the Kennedy Foundation and the Department of Mental Retardation, we needed to find faculty who would be willing to work with us for only a few hours a week).
Further, in 1985 when the Aging Project began, there were no accessible models for an interdisciplinary team that functioned in the area of service to clients who were both mentally retarded and old. Few professionals considered this area of expertise to be a primary identification. For all of these reasons, assembling a smoothly functioning team was partly a matter of serendipity.
Individuals who were excited by the venture of a new project and who were willing to set out in uncharted waters came together to evolve a project by their joint efforts. Certain assumptions were represented by the Project Director; a sense of affiliation or attachment to these assumptions may have been a primary organizing principle of the team as it assembled itself. These assumptions related less to content (which we would discover as we began our work) than to process. They included: