Apr 10, 2016

Cougar Tracks: How Interprofessionalism Positively Impacts Patient Care

The Introduction to Interprofessional Health Care course (IPE 1100) was given the opportunity to see the benefits of Interprofessional health care from a patient’s perspective. The students of this course had the pleasure of meeting Cougar Clifford - a young boy who found himself in a life changing accident in 2014, but benefited from interprofessional practices.

Here is Cougar Clifford and his mother, Colleen Toalson Clifford months before his accident in 2014.
Cougar is an avid dirt bike and cyclist fanatic and continues to pursue this passion today.

Cougar Clifford was and remains an active young boy who enjoys motor-crossing, dirt biking, and cycling. After a massive snow fall in the winter of 2014, Cougar and a group of friends were venturing through nearby snow banks when he did a trick that lead him to land on his head. This flip lead to an injury that caused the c5 vertebrae in his neck to break making him paralyzed from the neck down. Cougar was immediately sent to the St. Louis Children’s Hospital where he underwent a 10 hour surgery to repair his vertebrae.

After 24 days of post-surgery recovery and a few mishaps with his lungs collapsing countless times, he began to improve and was on his way to recovery thanks to the health care professionals that assisted in his recovery process which included surgeons, nurses, and medical therapists. Once he began to improve in physical therapy, he worked closely with a Child Life Specialist to create a poster sharing project for long term patients, like himself, that helped make their time in the hospital feel more comfortable.


Cougar after a successful 10 hour surgery in 2014 with his nurse, surgeon, specialist, and mother, Colleen. Cougar would remain at the St. Louis Children's Hospital for four months recovering from surgery and working with physical and occupational therapists to gain strength and coordination skills.

Years after surgery, Cougar is still working to improve every single day by working closely with his Occupational Therapist and Physical Therapist to help strengthen his upper extremities and advance his coordination skills. He continues to look at the next step in his recovery process with a positive outlook on his future.

During his IPE visit, Cougar expressed how important teamwork from the health care professionals involved in his recovery process truly made all the difference with where he is physically today. He reminisced about the time his Primary Care doctor took an effective step toward teamwork by moving their morning rounds discussion into Cougar’s room to make sure everyone involved with his recovery, including Cougar, were all on the same page each day.

Cougar Clifford and guests posing with the IPE 1100 after their class discussion in April 2016.

Cougar’s mother, Colleen Toalson Clifford - who came along with Cougar to speak with our students about her experiences as a mother - expressed her appreciation for the interprofessional team that worked with their family for an endless number of months. She stated that from the minute they arrived to the St. Louis Children’s Hospital until the moment they left, every doctor, surgeon, specialist, and nurse worked in unison to make sure that what needed to be done to improve Cougars health was being done. They believe that interprofessional teamwork and communication is what helped make his recovery process so successful.

Cougar is still working toward his recovery daily and his family pays out of pocket for each and every expense. If you’d like to learn more about Cougar’s process and/or donate to this cause, please visit or go to their Facebook page, Cougar Tracks.

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