Stories of Change

The GREAT GEC: Improving and Expanding Geriatric Care

By 2030, the U.S. will need 36,000 geriatricians because of baby-boomers. NSU's Main Campus is in Fort Lauderdale, FL. It serves people from Dade, Broward and West Palm Beach. "We have more seniors in the tri-county area than most states," says Dr. Naurshira Pandya. She knew it was the perfect place for a Geriatric Education Center [GEC]

South Florida has the seniors; NSU has the schools. Dr. Pandya is the head of the Florida Coastal Geriatric Resources, Education, and Training Center [GREAT GEC]. She's passionate about the collaborative research and care NSU offers. The GREAT GEC is supported by 8 of NSU's colleges and centers:

Dr. Pandya says elder care requires a different pace. Typically practitioners see a patient for less than 10 minutes. But, geriatricians can easily devote 30 minutes for a single patient visit. They consider multiple medical disciplines. And, geriatricians must communicate with caregivers. "We are really treating the whole family from illness to death," Says Dr. Pandya.

For example, 2 elderly sisters come from Port St. Lucie faithfully. Their daughters make the 2 ½ hour drive. They say visits to the GREAT GEC keep their aging mothers from going into the hospital. These patients are treated for diabetes and dementia. They need great time and attention. Geriatric patients need improved specialized care. The field of geriatrics needs more caregivers.

Executive director, Dr. Cecilia Rokusek, believes the GREAT GEC is creating answers to these needs. Every NSU medical student receives educational training in geriatrics. NSU residents in Family Medicine and Internal Medicine must do a compulsory rotation in geriatrics. Only 16 programs in the U.S. hold residents to this standard.

This experience recruits a new generation of caregivers. Elizabeth Hames completed her geriatric core rotation. She says she's learned the highest quality of patient care from Dr. Pandya, Dr. Sander-Cepeda and Dr. Warhaftig. So, the 4th year student signed up for geriatric electives. Elizabeth says, "When one of these physicians enters the examining room, the patient's eyes light up. That is the kind of doctor I want to become."