Monday, March 31, 2008

As Population Grows Older, Geriatricians Grow Scarce

Officials, Schools Prod Doctors to Focus on Elderly Care

Mary Boland, 91, can consider herself fortunate. In 2006, the chronically ill former teacher from Cincinnati had a narrow brush with death when she came down with pneumonia. Within minutes, Boland's personal physician, Gregg Warshaw, was called.

"She was weak, confused and breathing abnormally," Warshaw recalls. "Her blood oxygen level was low, and she was suffering a low-grade fever."
In the elderly, pneumonia is often fatal. But instead of rushing Boland to the nearest hospital, as many family doctors might have done, Warshaw, a geriatrician, stabilized the condition and put his patient on antibiotics.

"Luckily, the pneumonia wasn't grave enough to warrant hospitalization," Warshaw says.
Geriatricians have provided specialized care to the elderly for decades, and until recently their numbers have been growing. But despite countless attempts to convince the medical profession and the public of their worth, the number of practicing geriatricians in the United States -- about 7,000 -- is falling seriously behind needed levels.

While the U.S. population age 55 and older is growing rapidly, according to a 2005 census report, the number of medical school grads going into geriatrics has been slow to keep up.

According to one estimate, the nation's teaching hospitals are producing one or two geriatricians for every nine cardiologists or orthopedic surgeons.

Read Entire Story Here

No comments: