SENIORS: Dearth of Geriatricians in Face of Elder Boom
Despite the rapid graying of America and the need for specialized physicians to treat older adults, "[s]upply is not meeting demand," USA Today reports. According to the American Geriatrics Society, nationally only 8,810 physicians are trained in geriatrics to serve the 34 million Americans 65 and older. Geriatricians work to "prevent and manage the multiple, often chronic diseases of older adults," USA Today reports. Geriatrician Joanne Lynn of George Washington University's Center to Improve Care of the Dying said, "We have a much more comprehensive understanding of what the patient's situation is. We need to know much more about them and their family." Rosanne Leipzig of Mount Sinai Medical Center added, "Medically, it's the most challenging field. It's certainly not cookbook medicine." However, the elderly continue to rely on physicians who lack formal training in geriatrics. According to the Alliance for Aging Research, 2.9% of the 1992 graduate class participated in a geriatrics elective course, yet 50% of physician time will be devoted to the elderly after 2000. In addition, only three medical schools have dedicated geriatrics departments. The American Association of Medical Colleges, however, reports that 98% of medical schools required geriatrics exposure during the 1996-97 school year, and 73% of 1996 graduates deemed their geriatrics training appropriate. Leipzig predicts that more physicians will be trained in the field, adding, "Unless (doctors) are going into OB-GYN or pediatrics, they're all going to have to train in geriatrics" (Phan, 7/8).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.