Should geriatrics be mandatory in medical school?

Generally, all third-year American medical students rotate in medicine, surgery, OB/GYN, pediatrics, and psychiatry.

Should geriatrics be added to that list?

After all, patients aged 65 years and older make up more than 40 percent in medical specialty care, and over 30 percent in surgical care. For instance, heart attacks present differently in the elderly, and confusion can be due to infection or a drug reaction.

Most doctors do not receive formal training in geriatrics, and as geriatrician Rosanne M. Leipzig writes, “Often even experienced doctors are unaware that 80-year-olds are not the same as 50-year-olds. Pneumonia in a 50-year-old causes fever, cough and difficulty breathing; an 80-year-old with the same illness may have none of these symptoms, but just seem ‘not herself’ — confused and unsteady, unable to get out of bed.”

I was lucky that, at Boston University School of Medicine, geriatrics was a required course during the 4th year of medical school.

Perhaps more medical schools should follow that lead.

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