When Stanley Yuan began shadowing geriatrician Alison Moore, MD, MPH, FACP, during summers in college, he had just begun learning about geriatric medicine. And Dr. Moore, a professor in the Division of Geriatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, quickly dispelled any previous misconceptions Stanley had about the elderly.
"What I learned is that they love having someone to talk to, someone to listen to them," says Stanley, a rising second-year medical student at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "Dr. Moore spends the first 10 minutes of every appointment conversing with the patient and their family members, asking about their kids and their weekend before delving into their health issues. That had a huge impact on me. That's how medicine should be practiced — and how I want to practice it."
What is geriatric medicine?
Geriatric medicine is a subspecialty of internal medicine or family medicine that is geared toward treating patients 65 and older who often have complex medical and physiological conditions.
"Learning about geriatric medicine is different from learning about internal medicine, because when the elderly come into the clinic they don't typically come in with one issue," Stanley explains. "They have a slew of symptoms, and you have to figure out how they interconnect and how to treat them."
Stanley calls it "primary care but with a different spin." The complexity and diversity of the specialty is what drew him to lead UCLA's Geriatric Medicine Interest Group (GMIG) during his first year of medical school.
Stimulating interest in geriatric medicine
GMIG is recognized as the UCLA student chapter of the American Geriatrics Society. The goal is to foster interest in geriatrics among medical students, disseminate knowledge and increase awareness of the research currently addressing the healthcare problems of the elderly.
"From a school perspective, we host a lot of different lunch talks, inviting geriatricians on the faculty to talk about why they went into the field, or what direction they think the field is taking, or anything else they want to share that may draw interest to the field," Stanley says.
GMIG also provides community service focusing on wellness among the elderly, including volunteer opportunities at nursing homes and clinical shadowing opportunities for current medical students.
"Working with the elderly will only help in whatever field a medical student wishes to pursue. It has really taught me to be a more empathetic physician," says Stanley. "It's humbling and interesting work that brings a unique dynamic to the entire dimension of medicine."
By Emily Williams