Medical Schools Unite to Improve Geriatric Education

New group will promote education and public policy for senior citizens

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Medical students and practicing physicians in West Virginia will soon be receiving more training and education about the treatment of their older patients. The state’s three medical schools joined together last year to form the Geriatrics Educators of the Medical Schools of West Virginia (GEMS) under the leadership of Richard J. Ham, M.D., director of the West Virginia University Center on Aging. 

The group concentrates on problems related to rural aging in West Virginia.  GEMS will recognize practicing physicians with extra training and experience in geriatrics, and ensure an effective rural health experience with older patients for all medical students during their training.

“We believe that by ensuring that physicians and or students receive high quality training in geriatrics, we will now and in the future increase the quality of service and care provided to older West Virginians and their families,” said Dr. Ham. “Before GEMS, there was no forum to encourage collegial relationships and professional interaction between the clinicians, educators and administrators of our state’s three fine medical schools.”

All three schools face similar problems of funding, faculty availability, access to students, and many other issues.  GEMS provides a mutually beneficial forum for the schools to help one another by sharing of resources, experiences and faculty.

“The three medical schools acting together will be more effective, working as a group on projects at state and national levels,” said Shirley Neitch, M.D., FACP, professor of medicine, Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.  “We will be more effective with our decisions on treatment plans and policies for our elderly as a team rather than individual institutions.”

West Virginia’s senior population is projected to double in the next five years.  Despite this, geriatrics education is historically and chronically under-funded and under-emphasized in most medical school curricula.  The group hopes that through better education in geriatrics they can also impact public policy.

 “We hope this will give us a method of impacting public policy in the state,” said Marlene A. Wager, D.O., professor of geriatrics, West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine.  “Seniors deserve access to health care that understands their needs.  GEMS is one way the medical schools can address those issues while at the same time helping decision makers understand those needs.”

GEMS is funded in part by a grant from the CW Benedum Foundation. For more information about the project, contact the WVU Center on Aging at (304) 293-2968.

- WVU -

For more information:
Maria Durbin, WVU Center on Aging, (304) 293-0660

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