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Why I Became a Geriatrician

September 20, 2023
by Serena Crawford

As the number of older adults increases in the U.S., many will be seeking health care for age-related medical conditions. Yet, there are less than 7,300 certified geriatricians practicing across the U.S., according to the American Geriatrics Society.

Geriatrics is a branch of medicine that focuses on the medical care and treatment of aging people. Geriatricians are experts in caring for seniors, who often have different health care needs from those of younger adults. Common issues addressed by geriatricians include physical frailty, the management of multiple medications, and age-related diseases such as osteoporosis.

To meet the growing needs of aging adults, Yale Geriatrics is committed to training leaders in education, health care improvement, and clinical investigation, with the goal of ensuring that all older adults, including the most vulnerable, receive high quality care.

Why pursue a career in geriatrics? Below, five Yale faculty members discuss the reasons they chose to specialize in the field.

Building Relationships with Older Adults

Jennifer Ouellet, MD, assistant professor of medicine (geriatrics), grew up volunteering in nursing homes. “I enjoyed spending time with older adults, connecting with them, and hearing their stories,” she said. “I like to meet people, find out what's important to them, what matters to them, and then help them achieve their goals through their health care.”

Helping Patients Navigate Difficult Times

Laura Morrison, MD, associate professor of medicine (geriatrics), director of Hospice and Palliative Medicine Education, and program director for the Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship at Yale, was drawn to the harder conversations during her residency training in internal medicine and to patients who were dealing with potentially life-limiting illnesses. “I found my heart engaged at a different level, and I was all in,” she said. “This is still true.”

Exploring the Medical Complexities of Aging

Alexandra Hajduk, PhD, MPH, research scientist (geriatrics), was inspired to study geriatrics after her grandmother had a stroke and developed physical and cognitive difficulties. “It is fascinating to me that people often underestimate the effect that cardiovascular diseases can have on other parts of your body,” she said. “I think there is a lot of value in studying cardiovascular disease through a geriatrics lens because it allows you to identify issues that impact outcomes that are especially important to older adults, such as function and quality of life.”

Taking a Holistic Approach to Health

Andrew Cohen, MD, DPhil, assistant professor of medicine (geriatrics), has always been interested in the nonmedical elements that are important to well-being. “Geriatrics is one of the fields within internal medicine that is deeply interested in those factors outside of what you might find in a medical textbook,” he said. “For example, we think about the importance of social contact and how the home environment can be modified to allow somebody to successfully stay there.”

Learning Important Life Lessons

Chandrika Kumar, MD, associate professor of medicine (geriatrics), views her patients as teachers. “I’ve learned so much about life and its journey,” she said. “Don’t take things personally. Look at the positives. Be kind. Life is short.” Kumar loves sitting down and getting to know the way that her patients look at the big picture. “It gives you a very different perspective, and you think, ‘Why was I so worried about that?’”

The Department of Internal Medicine’s Section of Geriatrics strives to improve the health of older adults by providing exceptional patient care, training future leaders and innovators in aging, and engaging in cutting-edge research. To learn more about their mission, visit Geriatrics.

Submitted by Serena Crawford on September 20, 2023