October 17, 2005

Weill Medical Center Co-Founds Fellowship for Geriatric Medicine

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The geriatric population will benefit from better health care due to the start of a new medical fellowship which started in July. New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center has founded the Geriatric Emergency Medicine Fellowship, a one-year specialized training for physicians in emergency geriatric medicine.

The discipline of geriatrics often deals with people who are overcome with dementia or other serious illnesses. However, this program is mostly for people who haven’t reached that stage yet and want to prevent it.

“The reason for starting this fellowship was a growing realization for an aging population, but noticing it is aging better. While doing rounds, we see about five or six patients in their 90s or 100s not from nursing homes, but from their private homes,” said Neal Flomenbaum, M.D., head of the Emergency Department at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and director of the Geriatric Emergency Medicine Fellowship

“We’ve learned that a leading cause for a serious gerontological illness is something diagnosable and reversible, such as pneumonia or a urinary tract infection,” Flomenbaum said. “And often in lethal illnesses that in younger adults would have very recognizable symptoms, the conditions are not easily recognizable in those of extreme age.”

Through this fellowship, doctors hope to prevent serious illnesses by detecting and treating patients at an earlier stage. In addition, this program strives to reach out and bring health care directly to the elderly by taking training, equipment and skills to the patients who cannot come to the emergency department.

This fellowship was started by Flomenbaum as the result of a gift from Jerry Speyer, co-chair of the New York-Presbyterian Hospital Board of Trustees. Flomenbaum became interested in geriatrics through his work in medical toxicology, which deals with elderly people on medications who may encounter an overdose due to the dosage being suited for an adult. Currently heading and directing the program, Flomenbaum is hopeful that in a short time, one of the first fellows will take on the position of director of this program or other geriatric fellowships.

Mark Lachs and Ron Adelman, co-directors of the Geriatric Medicine Department at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, strongly supported the idea of this fellowship, which was essential to its establishment.

Fellows first take a six-week research methodology course to learn the basic tools for clinical research, continuing to clinical rotations in several settings, such as the geriatric department, the intensive care department, and in an outpatient geriatric clinic. The program currently has one fellow per year, with funding to continue through at least next year. Michael Stern, a Weill Cornell Medical College graduate, was named the program’s first fellow.

Four years ago, there was not even a residency in Emergency Medicine at this hospital. Establishment of a fellowship soon after the establishment of a residency is rare among hospitals, but it has worked well for the New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

“The program is much more successful than I dreamed. It was the right thing at the right time, partly on the strength of having the perfect person to start the fellowship, Michael Stern, who is superbly suited for this program,” Flomenbaum said.

Because the funding was only approved last January, the application process for the fellows was expedited.

“It was almost serendipity that Stern, originally planning on becoming an attending physician at the hospital, assumed this position. It all came together at the right time,” Flomenbaum said.

Although the fellowship is very new, there have already been more people interested in working with the program. The Hebrew Home for the Aged in Riverdale, for example, is planning on working with the NYS/WCMC Geriatric Emergency Medical Fellowship at a mutual interest.

Archived article by Noreen Rizvi
Sun Contributor