Yale Receives $2 Million Grant from Reynolds Foundation To Teach Medical Students, Residents and Physicians about Caring for the Elderly

Yale University has received a $2 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation to integrate into the education of all medical students a model of care that reflects the complex nature of the needs of the aging population.

The lead investigator on the project, Margaret Drickamer, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine and geriatrics at Yale School of Medicine, said the goal is to teach physicians-in-training to change the way they treat geriatric patients.

Drickamer said physicians treat elderly patients the same way they treat younger persons - symptoms are assessed, a diagnosis is made, and a treatment regimen is prescribed.

“With the elderly, any problem has many causes and consequences that need to be understood,” she said. For example, a patient with Parkinson’s disease who suffers falls may also have cataracts, or perhaps there has been a change in lighting or caregivers, she said.

“The patient’s preferences and goals need to be the basis of deciding on a treatment,” Drickamer said. She said this is especially important when the goal is to provide comfort rather than a cure, and not just for patients with terminal illnesses. “It means asking more questions and asking different questions,” she said. “The patients won’t volunteer the information because they usually don’t make the connection.”

The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation was founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur and is one of the largest foundations in the United States. It is headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The foundation said the funds are intended to provide medical trainees at Yale with a model of care for the elderly that is “scientifically informed, culturally sensitive and ethically appropriate.”

“Building from its strong base in aging research and existing resident and fellow training in geriatrics, it (Yale) plans to develop a case-based curriculum with multiple levels of complexity that will integrate these concepts into medical education from the basic sciences to continuing medical education for practicing physicians,” the foundation stated.

A web-based version will be developed for use at Yale and other institutions.

Drickamer, lead investigator on the project, is leaving her position as associate chief of staff for geriatrics, rehabilitation and extended care at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System in order to work on the grant.

Co-investigators include Herbert Chase, M.D., deputy dean for education, Yale School of Medicine; Richard Marottoli, M.D., associate professor of medicine and geriatrics, and Mary Tinetti, M.D., director of the Geriatics Programs.

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