Preparing medical students to care for older adults: the impact of a Senior Mentor Program.
PURPOSE: To provide alternative training experiences for medical students to improve the competencies needed to provide care for older adults. METHOD: Part of a comprehensive approach to integrating geriatric content at the University of South Carolina (USC) School of Medicine, the Senior Mentor Program (SMP) was launched in 2000. The SMP links pairs of students with older community volunteers in the spring of the first year. Students visit their mentors throughout medical school, and execute assignments that complement materials covered in the traditional curriculum. To evaluate the feasibility and efficacy of the SMP, the authors describe the program's operation and outputs, the extent to which undergraduate medical education at USC and the SMP meet the core competencies for care of older adults promulgated by the American Geriatrics Society (AGS), and analyze the coverage of geriatrics content from 2000 to 2005 at USC, as indicated by responses to the Medical School Graduation Questionnaire. RESULTS: From 2000 to 2005, 379 students enrolled in the SMP; 133 graduates of the classes of 2004 and 2005 have completed the SMP. Students and mentors indicated high acceptance and enthusiasm. The program has been maintained with minimal administrative burden. USC covered only half of AGS competencies before the SMP, but now covers 100%, with nearly a third met specifically through the SMP. USC graduates reporting inclusion of geriatrics throughout their four years of training rose from 66% in 2002 to 96% in 2004-05. CONCLUSIONS: The SMP has had a substantial impact on students' preparation for dealing with an aging patient population.
Eleazer, GP; Wieland, D; Roberts, E; Richeson, N; Thornhill, JT
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