Geriatric Education Center At Stony Brook Establishes Island-Wide Consortium, Expands Geographic Access To Enhance Health Care Training
As LI’s Population Ages, Wide Array of Caregivers Offered Free Access to Specialized Training
To help address the specific medical needs and improve clinical assessment of more than 375,000 senior citizens on Long Island, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) issued a $1.27 million, three-year grant award to the Research Foundation of the State University of New York to educate a myriad of medical professionals through an Island-wide Consortium of the Long Island Geriatric Education Center (LIGEC) at Stony Brook University. The Consortium funding advances LIGEC’s mission in the training of healthcare professionals throughout Long Island at locations that include Stony Brook University Medical Center, Eastern Long Island Hospital, St. John’s University College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions, and Winthrop University Hospital. “Reports show that there are increasing numbers of older patients with multiple, chronic conditions or disabling diseases resulting in limitations of function in Nassau and Suffolk Counties,” says Suzanne Fields, M.D., Chief of the Division of Geriatrics and General Internal Medicine at the Health Sciences Center, and Program Director of the Center. “The incidence and prevalence of diseases associated with aging, such as heart disease, diabetes mellitus, cancer, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and dementia, are increasing as the elderly live longer.”
Established in 2001, LIGEC at Stony Brook University is one of only 48 such programs nationwide. The Center was originally established for Stony Brook University faculty, residents, and students of the School of Medicine and the four Health Sciences Schools. In January of 2006, new funding provided an opportunity to extend the program to the east end of Long Island.
“The refunding of LIGEC from HRSA through 2010 enables us to establish this Island-wide Consortium and provide specialized training to health care providers in diverse clinical settings,” said Dr. Fields.
Disciplines covered in the new funding include dentistry, medicine, nursing, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, occupational and physical therapy, social welfare, dental hygiene, and pharmacy. Completion of the 40-hour course entitles the practitioner to CME credits and provides a certificate as a LIGEC Associate.
According to Dr. Richard N. Fine, Dean, School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, LIGEC has already helped shape and enhance faculty development in the SOM both at the SBUMC and affiliate institutions – Winthrop University Hospital, Northport VA and Gurwin Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
“As a result of the LIGEC, there is now a student American Geriatrics Society Chapter on campus,” said Dr. Fine. “In addition, medical students are conducting summer research in aging through Hartford/AFAR grants, medical students are involved in the Adopt-a-Vet program at the Long Island State Veterans Home, and required geriatric experiences and lectures are now incorporated in the newly developed ambulatory care clerkship for third year medical students.”
Shirley Strum Kenny, President of Stony Brook University says that the LIGEC initiative to improve the care of older patients throughout Long Island attests to the importance of utilizing the resources of a large university to help prepare existing and future health care workers to meet the needs of an aging population.
“The LIGEC Consortium is evidence of the visionary efforts of a dedicated and concerned community, committed to providing the trained group of professionals necessary to care effectively for older adults,” she said.
Keynote address at the announcement of the LIGEC Consortium was delivered by Greg Olsen, Deputy Director, New York State Office for the Aging. He said that right now, the State Office for Aging is the little guy on the block, but that’s not how it will be five to ten years from now.
“This collaboration is a model that should be replicated around the state, and I will be bringing that back [to Albany],” said Olsen.
Pat Bruckenthal, PhD, RN, NP, Clinical Associate Professor of Stony Brook University School of Nursing, completed the GEC program in 2002. She saw the 40-hour curriculum as an opportunity to enhance her knowledge of geriatric health care while networking with an interdisciplinary team of health care providers with the same interest.
“Participating in the program broadened my understanding of the complexities of elder care and multiple comorbidities that are associated with this age group,” says Pat. “These can be physical, psychological, spiritual, and social in nature. I am sensitive to looking for signs of depression in the elderly. Also, I have gained more knowledge of different modalities available to help with physical function.”
“Training in geriatrics is highly important because the geriatric population has a distinct set of physiological, emotional, and practical needs requiring specialized approaches and treatment regimens,” says Dr. Fields. “Since most health care professionals do not receive the geriatrics training necessary to respond to the unique and complex needs of older adults, inaccurate diagnoses and inappropriate care often result.”
Dr. Fields will coordinate Consortium activities with the LIGEC Faculty team at Stony Brook as well as with LIGEC Faculty Consortium members including Dr. Jay Slotkin, a community geriatrician working out of Eastern Long Island Hospital; Irving Gomolin, M.D., Chief, Division of Geriatric Medicine, Chief, Division of Clinical Pharmacology at Winthrop University Hospital; Maureen Regan, Assistant Director of Medical Education at Winthrop; and, Judith Beizer, PharmD, FASCP, St. John’s College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions.
“We are very excited to be part of the consortium,” said Dr. Beizer, who is also Clinical Professor in the Center for Extended Care and Rehabilitation for St. John’s. “The pharmacist plays a very important role in the healthcare team and the issue of medication management, so it is vital that we offer education for practicing pharmacists who want to increase their knowledge in geriatric-specific medicine.”
For information on LIGEC Consortium curriculum, conferences, CME lectures and other services, contact Stony Brook University LIGEC office at 631-444-8279 or check out the website at: www.hsc.stonybrook.edu/centers/ligec.