Boston Globe (November 16, 2009): Doctors Urge a Focus on Geriatrics

Publication Date: 
Mon, 11/16/2009

Doctors who specialize in treating the elderly are calling on the nation's medical schools to require all students to demonstrate competence in treating senior citizens, a change in century-old teaching standards.

With the first of the 78 million baby boomers nearing retirement age, the American Geriatrics Society is proposing that elder care be added to the list of six core areas that have long been the focus of medical school training.

While many schools are integrating more geriatrics into courses, the training varies greatly and less than 1 percent of the faculty responsible for teaching future doctors are experts in geriatrics, according to a 2008 report from the Institute of Medicine, a nonprofit that advises the federal government on health issues.

Medical students and doctors-in-training "are getting exposed in a very haphazard way," said Stuart Altman, a coauthor of the report and a national health policy professor at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.