May 15, 1996 in Nation/World

Doctors For Elderly Running Low Lawmaker Urges Incentives For Teaching, Study Of Geriatrics

Associated Press
 

When baby boomers began arriving 50 years ago, pediatricians were in short supply. Today, as this generation grays, the number of doctors trained to treat older people is “woefully inadequate,” said a study released Tuesday.

Playing on a Beatles lyric for its title, the Alliance for Aging Research study “Will You Still Treat Me When I’m 65?” outlines a dismal picture for the nation’s largest population group.

Medical schools lack teachers of geriatrics, and too few medical students are choosing the courses that are available, says the report by the Washington-based advocacy group.

At least 20,000 physicians with geriatric training are needed to provide appropriate care for the current population of more than 30 million older Americans, says the study.

By 2030, more than 36,000 physicians with geriatric training will be needed for more than 65 million older Americans, it says.

“We need to start giving incentives to medical students and schools to become interested in geriatrics,” said Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., a member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, at a news conference on the study. “We must have an accelerated program. We don’t have the luxury of waiting 10 or 11 years.”

The alliance issued a report four years ago warning of the shortage. It led to certification of 2,700 more doctors as geriatricians for a total now of 6,784 nationwide. But the alliance notes the total U.S. physician population is 684,414 and says the emphasis on geriatrics is beginning to diminish.

“The total number of geriatricians seeing patients and teaching in medical schools remains woefully inadequate for the needs of a rapidly aging American population,” says the new study.

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