Oldies Not So Golden?

From the annual meeting of the American Medical Directors Association, Charlotte, N.C.:

Dr. Jerald Winakur

Dr. Jerald Winakur

This morning’s keynote was a very moving talk by Dr. Jerald Winakur, a geriatrician and certified medical director. Dr. Winakur shared his perspectives on caring for the elderly from both a clinical and personal standpoint as he read from his book, “Memory Lessons: A Doctor’s Story,” which chronicles his father’s descent into dementia.

But Dr. Winakur also talked about how the numbers of medical students choosing geriatrics is decreasing, just as the numbers of adults in need of geriatric care are increasing. According to the American Geriatrics Society, the number of U.S. medical school graduates who entered geriatrics fellowship training dropped from 167 in 2003 to 91 in 2007. In other words, just just 0.5% of the medical school class of 2007 chose geriatrics. 

That makes me a little more nervous about getting older, and I started thinking about how to encourage more medical students to pursue geriatrics. The attendees at AMDA obviously find this field rewarding, but it’s not what you would call sexy. As Dr. Winakur observed, it’s easy to get impatient with older patients who move slowly and have a hard time explaining their ailments. This is not the realm of exotic infections and people running in with paddles yelling, “Clear!” Perhaps we need a TV show to popularize geriatric medicine for medical students.

Networks, are you listening? I offer you “GR,” a show set at a skilled nursing facility somewhere like West Palm Beach, Fla., so  the phenomenally attractive doctors and nurses can hang out on the beach when they are off duty. 

Seriously, though,  the crunch in long-term care will only get more severe. I’m not sure what it will take to encourage talented medical students to get involved in this field.

—Heidi Splete

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1 Comment

Filed under Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Practice Trends, Uncategorized

One response to “Oldies Not So Golden?

  1. Alicia

    Great post, Heidi. I enjoyed reading this.

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