A Personal Welcome to the Mini Medical School Class of 2013
I want to express my appreciation for your enrollment in a program that has become a passion for me. That project is to open the doors of a major medical school to allow community members to learn of the marvels of healthy human aging. Most importantly, it teaches how to make the lifestyle and health decisions necessary to flourish in life’s “second half.”
My interest in bringing “direct to consumer” medical school education to the general community stems from more than my interests as a geriatrician. It also arises from arithmetic. Here are some numbers to consider:
- 78 million: Number of Americans born between 1946 and 1964, and are now turning age 60 at a rate of 56,000 per week.
- 47%: Percentage of U.S. physicians aged 51 and older, according to the American Medical Association.
- 40%: Number of physicians planning to retire, reduce practice or transition to non-clinical careers within 3 years, based on a survey of 12,000 physicians, by Physicians Foundation, November 2008.
- $140,000 dollars: Average loan debt for a 2010 medical school graduate.
- 2%: Percentage of graduating medical students planning to enter a primary care practice rather than more lucrative specialties with predictable hours, according to the American Medical Association.
- 300: Number of board-certified geriatricians now produced annually in the United States.
In my mind, the days of relying solely on our personal physician to help us navigate the waters of the healthcare system are waning. The likelihood that our physician will have had formal training in age-related medicine is small.
You may be aware that the Obama administration is actively working with Congress to address an increasingly critical shortage of primary care physicians to serve an aging population. However, no solution is likely to be found soon. The reason: any increase in physicians would also mean increased access to care - a difficult decision when trying to rein in health care costs.
I believe that we are rapidly entering a new model of healthcare delivery. In this new model, it will be increasingly likely that a healthcare encounter for a new symptom or complaint will not directly involve a physician. Rather, individuals will be more engaged in selecting diagnostic studies to match their symptoms, and in choosing treatment.
I cannot conceive of a better preparation for the new model of self-directed health care than enrolling in medical school for 6 weeks.
Since 2002, Aging and Medical Science: A Mini Medical School to Prepare for Life's Second Half has graduated more than 2500 students ranging in age from 23 to 97. It has inspired several of the graduates to pursue gerontology-related careers, and at least one graduate to become a physician (she is now studying at the University of Vermont School of Medicine). For most, it has helped level the playing field when facing a daunting healthcare system.
We have never charged tuition for UC Davis Mini Medical School.
My hope is to see our Mini Medical School for "seniors-in-waiting" aging replicated in communities nationwide. Perhaps such programs will empower a physically robust, formidable generation of seniors to rage their age.
On behalf of my Mini Medical School team, our distinguished advisory council and the Department of Internal Medicine at UC Davis, I welcome the class of 2012.
Michael K. McCloud, M.D., F.A.C.P.
Clinical Professor of Medicine
Creator and Course Director: Aging and Medical Science: A Mini Medical School