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In the Balance |

In Defense of a Department of Geriatrics

Christine K. Cassel, MD
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Copyright ©2004 by the American College of Physicians

Ann Intern Med. 2000;133(4):297-301. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-133-4-200008150-00015
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Departmental status for geriatrics offers many advantages, all of which are related to strengthening academic and clinical programs in aging. The training programs and the content of medical school curriculum in geriatrics remain inadequate under the current structures. A department of geriatrics can provide a stronger faculty base and allow effective interaction with other departments (including but not limited to internal medicine) that need geriatric training.

A department of geriatrics also focuses on a model of care that involves working closely with other disciplines, such as nursing and social work. This interdisciplinary model helps expert providers work efficiently throughout the spectrum of care, strengthening continuity. The department can include other medical specialists, such as family practitioners, psychiatrists, and physiatrists, who work with caregivers and patients throughout a course of treatment to manage chronic illness and help maintain and enhance function and independence as long as possible.

Comprehensive care and proper care management also substantially benefit institutions by expanding the patient population, reducing length of stay, and avoiding unnecessary hospitalization of older patients through effective discharge planning and transitional care. This requires strong relationships with long-term care providers, a characteristic strength of geriatricians.

Although not all research in aging needs to be housed in a department of geriatric medicine, the presence of a critical mass of basic and clinical researchers creates an environment that can stimulate new initiatives and attract external funding. Additional research bridging basic translational and clinical phases relevant to the elderly population is best encouraged by maintaining relationships with other basic science and clinical departments.


geriatrics ; elderly





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