Welcome Class of 2014
2 January 2014
Dear Mini Medical School Class of 2014:
Happy New Year to all of you! I’m looking forward to welcoming you to the 12th consecutive year of Aging and Medical Science: A Mini Medical School to Prepare for Life’s Second Half. This will be my second year leading the program as Director, working hard to fill the shoes of the Founding Director, Michael McCloud, M.D. Some of you will be first-year attendees, while others are veterans. For returnees, we honor your commitment to life-long learning, something to which all medical practitioners must be dedicated. Of course, maybe you just like initials after your name. This year, some could become J. Doe, GrMMSI, GrMMSII, GrMMSIII, GrMMSIV, GrMMSV, GrMMSVI, GrMMSVII, GrMMSVIII, GrMMSIX, GrMMSX, GrMMSXI, GrMMSXII. Won’t your kids be impressed!
Our mission is to equip seniors and seniors-to-be with knowledge about age-related disorders and the health-care environment This knowledge has never been more important, because as seniors live longer, the number of their chronic medical conditions tends to grow, while the length of a primary-care visit continues to shrink. To achieve successful aging, today’s and tomorrow’s seniors will need to be able to direct more of their health care, and will need to be able to effectively collaborate with their health providers as informed, self-advocating participants.
As we live longer, we would like to maintain as much of our youthful vigor and appearance as we can, so that with more years of life, we can experience more life in those years. This desire to remain physically young has become a national obsession. Have you looked around you lately? Gray hair may be going extinct! More and more men and women dye their hair, and many obtain Botox injections to hide the wrinkles. Former Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi,may have had more Botox injections than even Cher. There is also a serious side. In 2004, 78% of adults aged 75-84 remained non-disabled – for many, because they were beneficiaries of advances in medical technology. At the same time, older Americans are sicker. Among persons 65+, there was more high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, and mental illness in 2006 than in 1997.
In recognition of the desire to extend our years of active life, we have chosen a theme for this year’s MMS:
On the Quest for the Fountain of Youth:
Restoring Function to the Older Adult. What Medical Technology, Techniques, and Therapies Can (and Can’t Yet) Accomplish.
Medical care for seniors is getting more complex. Yet there’s not enough time to get all of your problems addressed at the doctor’s office. Here are some sobering facts:
- The Baby-Boom generation is turning 60 at the rate of 56,000 per week.
- The median primary-care visit length for seniors in a managed care group (like Kaiser) is just 13 minutes.
- Most practicing physicians (including primary-care doctors) have had little or no training in geriatrics.
- There is a national shortage of geriatricians (experts in the care of older adults). We are training fewer than 300 per year, not enough to keep pace with need. In fact, by 2030 it is projected there will be only 8,000 geriatricians for 29 million seniors age 75 and older in the United States.
Our only hope at this point is that academic geriatricians will be able to teach today’s medical students about geriatric medicine so that they are equipped with the basic skills to address the special needs of their older patients. Medical-school tuition, as high as it is, does not come close to paying for this medical education. Thus, most teaching of medical students by geriatricians and other clinical faculty is unreimbursed. The time given to teaching comes from time taken away from the research and clinical care that pays their salaries. For many medical school faculty, the incentive is to teach as little as possible.
Only if our academic geriatricians are supported in their teaching mission by outside endowments can we hope to train the next generation of doctors in the principles of geriatric medicine. With the help of people like you, that goal can become a reality.
On behalf of the Department of Internal Medicine and the medical school faculty who have donated their time to teach you, welcome you to the 12th annual Mini Medical School! I look forward to seeing you all on Saturday, February 1!
Calvin H. Hirsch, MD
Professor of Clinical Internal Medicine (Geriatrics) and Public Health Sciences
UC Davis Health System