A novel program in New York gives medical students the chance to experience life as nursing home patients and learn about geriatrics, a field in desperate need of more professionals. The New York Times
reports on: "Students are given a 'diagnosis' of an ailment and expected to live as someone with the condition does. They keep a daily journal chronicling their experiences and, in most cases, debunking their preconceived notions." The program began in 2005 after a student approached Dr. Marilyn Gugliucci, the director of geriatrics education at the University of New England's medical school.
"Geriatric specialists hope the program and others like it help generate interest in the profession, one of the most underrepresented fields in medicine. Medical schools and residencies require little to no geriatric training, and many students are reluctant to get into the field because it is among the lowest paid in medicine. In 2005, there was one geriatrician for every 5,000 people over 65, according to the American Geriatrics Society; by 2030 that ratio is expected to increase to one for every 8,000 patients. Geriatricians must participate in a two-year fellowship program after medical school to become certified. In 2007, only 253 of 400 fellowship slots were filled, and only 91 of the physicians graduated from medical school in the United States" (Zezima, 8/23).