HMS Students Round at HRC as Part of First Required Experience in Geriatrics
January 16, 2008
Boston - On Wednesday, January 16, 2008, the first of four groups of the second year Harvard Medical School class came to Hebrew Rehabilitation Center (the flagship medical facility of Hebrew SeniorLife) in Boston to learn physical diagnosis as part of the new Harvard Medical School Central Geriatric Sessions. Remaining students will round on January 30, February13 and February 27.
This program represents an historic milestone in the history of HMS, because for the first time all students will be required to learn to examine elderly patients at a long-term care facility. This development is the first realization of a 25-year vision spear-headed by Harvard Medical School Professor Lewis Lipsitz, M.D., who is also vice president for Academic Medicine and co-director of the Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife and chief of gerontology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC). Dr. Lipsitz's goal was to ensure that all HMS students gain exposure to geriatric medicine as part of their instruction.
"Given the fact that almost every practicing physician providing care for adults will soon have a practice filled with elderly patients, it is essential that every medical student become skilled in the examination and treatment of older people," says Dr. Lipsitz. "Long-term care facilities are excellent places to achieve this goal, since residents living there have a multitude of symptoms and physical findings that can be studied with the luxury of time, unimpeded by the exigencies of acute illness and diagnostic tests in the traditional acute hospital setting. I have always dreamed that some day there would be academic nursing homes analogous to academic medical centers that would serve as exemplary research and training sites in geriatric medicine to prepare new generations of physicians skilled in the principles and practice of geriatric medicine."
According to the National Institute on Aging, by 2030 the population of people over 75 will increase from 19 million to 33.5 million as the baby boomers cross the threshold from middle age to senior citizen. Dr. Lipsitz is concerned that despite the enormous growth of the senior population over the next few decades, medical care in the United States is ill prepared to meet its demands. The current ratio of one geriatrician for every 2,546 older Americans is predicted to become one per 4,254 by 2030.
Geriatrics is a medical subspecialty that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of conditions that affect people as they age. A geriatrician is trained to handle the multiple, interacting conditions, drugs, social situations, and psychological problems an older person may face.
About the Harvard Medical School Central Geriatric Sessions
Zaldy Tan, M.D., and Patricia O'Sullivan, M.D., both geriatricians in the Medical Department at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center and faculty members in the Division of Gerontology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, oversee the program. Each session consists of four hours split between Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and HRC during which the students learn how to take a medical history from an older adult patient. The session begins at the state-of-the-art BIDMC Shapiro Simulator Center, where trained actors stage scenarios playing the part of patients, providing feedback to the students along with faculty on how they perform. Afterwards, students go to HRC to take histories of real patients under the guidance of geriatric faculty from HMS affiliated hospitals, including HRC. The day concludes with an opportunity for students and faculty on a one teacher to two-student ratio to raise any issues or questions that may have come up as a result of the experience.
According to Dr. Tan, "The Harvard Central Geriatrics Session provides us with a unique and invaluable opportunity to immerse these bright, impressionable medical students to the rewards and challenges of caring for older patients. It is our hope that years from now these future physicians, whether primary care practitioner or specialist, will look fondly at their experience at the HRC and apply the lessons they learned to provide the best possible care to the older patients they will encounter throughout their careers. "
About Hebrew SeniorLife
The Department of Medicine at Hebrew SeniorLife is an academic department whose members are engaged in education and research, in addition to patient care. It is one of the largest geriatrics departments anywhere in the United States, and one of the few academic departments based in a long-term care institution.
Hebrew SeniorLife is recognized internationally as a leader in senior health care, housing and aging research. Through an integrated seven-site system, Hebrew SeniorLife provides long-term care; short-term, sub-acute care; research and teaching; adult day health; independent supportive senior housing; a continuing care retirement community; home health care; and services and programs for seniors in the community.