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UC Irvine receives grant to improve geriatrics education

Geriatrics program will seek ways to better communicate with aging population

March 12, 2009

UC Irvine’s nationally recognized program in geriatrics has received a $2 million grant to enhance the care of older adults through a major new initiative in medical education.

As part of the four-year grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, UC Irvine will integrate geriatric principles throughout the School of Medicine’s curricula, including the medical student program and postgraduate study. The university’s departments of anesthesiology and perioperative care, emergency medicine, psychiatry, family medicine, internal medicine and oncology have agreed to incorporate geriatrics education into their training to improve the doctor-patient relationship.

“Virtually every medical specialty treats older adults, but not every physician is equipped to meet the particular needs of those patients, many of whom may have complicated medical conditions,” said Dr. Laura Mosqueda, director of the geriatrics program and the Center of Excellence in Elder Abuse and Neglect at UC Irvine. “Our goal is to develop the tools to help doctors meet those needs.”

Improving communication between clinicians and patients is at the heart of the effort. Too often, Mosqueda said, physicians don’t know how to speak properly to patients about their conditions and prognoses. “But more importantly, we don’t know how to listen properly,” she said.

“Healthcare is not simply making a diagnosis or bringing the most current technology to bear on a medical problem,” Mosqueda said. “Doctors are obligated to  communicate clearly with their patients, and we want to remedy the disconnect that often occurs, especially with seniors.”

The grant will fund development of a protocol emphasizing clear communication in the doctor-patient relationship. Mosqueda’s team will work with medical faculty to identify issues specific to their specialties and then devise solutions. UC Irvine will collaborate with the University of Arizona on implementing improvements related to health literacy and with Vanderbilt University on creating a database to track the new curriculum’s effectiveness.

Another important part of the effort is developing a process for UC Irvine Medical Center’s electronic medical record system that reminds physicians of older adults’ particular needs. It would identify potential dangers related to medications, thus providing a safer experience for patients.

The lessons learned at UC Irvine will be shared in a national database so that physicians, hospitals and medical schools across the country can benefit from the grant work done here.

The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for which it is named. Headquartered in Las Vegas, it is one of the largest private foundations in the United States.

About UC Irvine Medical Center: UC Irvine Medical Center is Orange County’s only university research hospital, Level I trauma center, American College of Surgeons-verified regional burn center and National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center. It offers acute- and general-care services and opened its 482,000-square-foot University Hospital in early 2009.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UC Irvine is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UC Irvine is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s second-largest employer, UC Irvine contributes an annual economic impact of $4 billion. For more UC Irvine news, visit today.uci.edu.

News Radio: UC Irvine maintains on campus an ISDN line for conducting interviews with its faculty and experts. Use of this line is available for a fee to radio news programs/stations that wish to interview UC Irvine faculty and experts. Use of the ISDN line is subject to availability and approval by the university.