US News & World Report: Geriatric Education

Focus on Geriatric Training in Medical School

Explosive growth in America’s geriatric population is one reason medical schoolprofessors and practicing physicians advise all aspiring doctors to learn the basics of geriatric medicine. The number of U.S. residents at or over age 65 skyrocketed from 35 million to 49.2 million between 2000 and 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau data.

Dr. Alison Moore, a professor of medicine and psychiatry at University of California—San Diego and chief of its geriatrics division, says nearly all physicians besides pediatricians and obstetricians have frequent encounters with geriatric patients, so it’s ideal for medical schools to have mandatory, four-week clinical rotations in this discipline.

One key advantage of in-depth medical school courses in geriatric medicine, professors say, is that they provide exposure to complex patients with multiple prescriptions and numerous clinicians. Students learn how to manage prescriptions and lead a team of health care providers, which ensures coordinated care and prevents medical errors, professors say.

But experts caution that geriatric medicine is one of the least lucrative medical specialties, since Medicare typically provides lower reimbursement rates than commercial medical insurance.

“If you take care of mostly older patients, you wind up getting paid less; plus, they’re more complex,” says Dr. Paula Lester, a geriatrician and clinical associate professor of medicine at Stony Brook University—SUNY.

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