North Atlanta Primary Care

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The Increasing Need For Geriatricians

Posted on July 01, 2015 by Andrew Langley

Geriatricians specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases unique to older adults. According to The American Geriatrics Society (AGS), in 2014 there were only 7,369 certified geriatricians in the U.S. (1) This presents a daunting problem for the future of older Americans as the number of people ages 65 and older continues to increase.

10,000 new beneficiaries enroll in Medicare every day, yet we lose 5 geriatricians every week,” said the spokesperson from this year’s AGS Annual Scientific Meeting. (2)

Americans are living longer and while this is a promising trend, a societal responsibility to encourage more doctors to specialize in treating the older demographic looms large.  With old age comes an increase in chronic diseases such as hypertension, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and dementia.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation claims that, “Within twenty years, one in five Americans will be over 65 and an estimated 90 percent of those Americans will have one or more chronic conditions.” (3)

The ever-increasing ratio of geriatrics to geriatricians is certainly troubling.  North Atlanta Primary Care is lucky enough to have a provider who specializes in geriatric medicine.

It is a dilemma that we as a medical society have not been able to effectively articulate the importance and dire need for geriatricians, despite the growing elderly population,” says Ramla Sharif, MD, who completed her geriatric fellowship at Emory University in 2014. ”As a result, we face a tremendous shortage of geriatricians which is definitely impacting the quality of care of the elderly population.”

An active member with the American Geriatric Society, Dr. Sharif designed a computer-based tool which aids in the diagnosis and management of osteoporosis in long term care patients at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Atlanta.

We can make a big difference in elderly care by early recognition of geriatric syndromes like falls, incontinence, pain and dementia.  While treating the elderly, a proactive and preventative approach can avoid many of the risks and common pitfalls of usual care resulting in improved quality of life and maximally preserving the independence of the elderly patient.

Dr. Sharif’s evident passion should help convince future MDs to consider specializing in geriatrics in preparation for the approaching influx of older Americans.  She is currently seeing patients at North Atlanta Primary Care in Alpharetta.&

  1. Gross, C. & Bell, EC. (2014). Appendix 3: AOA Specialty Board Certification. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, 114 (4), 313-316. doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2014.059
  2. Tatum, Paul. Finding the Workforce to Care for an Aging Population. GeriPal, 19 May 2015. Web. 18 June 2015.
  3. Chronic Conditions: Making the Case for Ongoing Care, February 2010. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, www.rwjf.org/en/library/research/2010/02/chronic-care

 

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