The Senior Mentor Program at Duke University School of Medicine.
The Duke University School of Medicine has a unique curriculum in which students complete basic sciences in year 1 and clinical clerkships in year 2, making way for an entire year of independent study in year 3. Into this compact curriculum, education in geriatrics has been successfully introduced through focused exercises and activities strategically integrated in all four years. The most popular of these educational strategies is the Senior Mentor Program (SMP), through which second year students meet with a senior volunteer from the community. In addition to improving students' knowledge and skills in geriatric assessment, a central goal of the SMP is to increase students' appreciation for the heterogeneity of health and function among the older adult population. Students meet one-on-one with their senior mentor to practice communication skills and performance of key components of geriatric assessment. Afterward, students convene in small groups with division faculty to debrief. Successful implementation of the program has required a combination of rigorous logistical management and communication with key stakeholders. The program has spawned a number of different benefits beyond the curriculum, including faculty development in teaching skills and enhanced relationships with individuals and agencies from the community. We aspire to continue to improve the structure and content of the program to reflect the socioeconomic and ethnic diversity of the community and to offer students a longitudinal experience.
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