July 28, 2006

New center set to focus on geriatrics education, training

Featured Image

James Powers, M.D.

New center set to focus on geriatrics education, training

Vanderbilt University Medical Center has received a $2 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation to create a comprehensive program to help train and educate those who care for elderly patients.

The Vanderbilt-Reynolds Geriatrics Education Center will develop an educational program that will be woven throughout the curriculum for medical students, as well as taught to faculty, residents and practicing physicians.

With 20 percent of the Medical Center's volume represented by patients who are 65 and older — and with the state's 65 and older population projected to be 25 percent by 2025 — the need to train physicians to meet the needs of the aging patient is critical, said James Powers, M.D., principal investigator of the education grant.

“The direct benefactors will be our aging patients, who will get better trained physicians caring for them,” said Powers, associate professor of Medicine. “Physicians will be more effective and be able to provide more appropriate care for the elderly.”

The program seeks to educate physicians and evaluate the care of elderly patients according to the six Institute of Medicine Aims for Improvement — care is safe, timely, effective, efficient, equitable and patient-centered.

It also addresses the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education's six core competencies of personal characteristics for students and physicians in caring for the elderly — patient care, medical knowledge, practice-based learning and improvement, communication, professionalism and systems-based practice.

The Vanderbilt-Reynolds Geriatrics Education Center has four goals:

• Comprehensively and continuously integrate Geriatrics into the medical school curriculum.

• Enhance the medical and surgical residency training programs in geriatrics.

• Improve education in geriatrics for faculty and practicing physicians.

• Coordinate geriatrics curriculum elements with regional geriatrics educational resources.

“The thing that is different about the Geriatrics Education Center is that we are going to include informatics in our infrastructure,” said Powers.

“Under our design, an informatics-based education and learner evaluation will occur at the point of care. We will also develop standardized and simulated patient encounters that supplement the real world experience.”

Vanderbilt's strength in informatics will be highlighted throughout the new Geriatrics Center in many ways, including the electronic capture and concept-based indexing of all medical school curriculums, a portfolio of learner educational content, and delivery of educational decision support at the point of care.

“By integrating geriatric training into all four years of the medical school curriculum, Vanderbilt will be able to identify and evaluate each individual learner's exposure to geriatric education as well as identify any geriatric knowledge gaps which will allow for timely supplemental instruction,” said Powers.

“Vanderbilt is in good company as it prepares its current and future physicians to effectively and compassionately care for elderly patients.”

For more than 25 years, Vanderbilt has been on the forefront of providing and coordinating geriatric education programming.

“The history of geriatrics in our region has been one of collaboration,” said Powers, clinical associate director of the VA's Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center.

The Section of Geriatrics, within the Division of General Medicine and Public Health, directs more than 20 clinical sites of care and has provided leadership in attaining numerous fellowships, career development awards, lectureships, educational programs, government grants and private endowments for Vanderbilt and surrounding institutions.

“Now, with the additional support from the foundation, Vanderbilt will be able to further its mission in strengthening geriatric training within our region,” Powers said.

“This is a great opportunity for us to enhance the curriculum for all medical students and to collaborate with the Center for Experiential Learning and Assessment, Biomedical Informatics Center, Eskind Biomedical Library, Vanderbilt Center for Teaching, GRECC, Institute for Medicine and Public Health and the newly formed Center for Quality in Aging.”

Clinical plans additionally include the creation of an Acute Care for Elderly (ACE) Unit in the hospital and a patient-friendly Senior Care Outpatient Center.

The Reynolds Foundation, one of the 50 largest foundations in the United States, began in 1954. With a goal of strengthening physician training in the area of geriatrics, the foundation has looked to the nation's academic health centers to fulfill the growing need for geriatric education and training.

Vanderbilt is among the last group of centers receiving monies. There are now 30 Reynolds Geriatric Centers in the nation.