Why So Few Geriatricians?

KCUR-Kansas City Reporter Dan Margolies and I had a pretty wide-ranging discussion on physician supply several weeks ago. Now he has produced an interesting radio segment on why so few providers of health care services focus on elders, though elders disproportionately consume health care resources.  

One thing Dan and I discussed that did not make it into his article was my speculation that, though there is evidence that current medical students have somewhat different values and perspectives than have formerly been attributed to those currently practicing medicine, it may be a reach to expect the overwhelmingly relatively young and the overwhelmingly relatively robust to have a powerful natural interest in the health and well-being of elders. One thing that has not changed all that much in the past several years is the average age of the person attending medical school.

I have noticed that an interest in Elder Law is often fostered by an attorney's lived experience with our health care system or our Social Security system, often developed while helping a relative or a friend. When I consider that, I wonder if geriatrician recruits ought not come from those who have lived a little bit more of life before starting medical school, perhaps even having been involved with elders in a health care or non-health care setting.

Of course, this would mean actively recruiting students for medical schools in some cases, a concept perhaps at odds with current medical school student admissions and that might require re-thinking the debt-financed nature of medical education. As medical residency is already funded by government funds, this may not be as unusual as it sounds. 

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