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New UTHSC geriatrics training programs will bridge health care shortage

The elderly are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population. More than 35 million Americans are classified as senior citizens — but only about 9,000 geriatricians are currently practicing in the United States.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC) is taking aggressive measures to shrink the gap between seniors and the number of doctors trained to care for them. In recognition of the effort, the John A. Hartford Foundation and the American Association of Medical Colleges jointly awarded Cynthia Alford, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of family and community medicine, a two-year, $100,000 grant. Dr. Alford will use the funds to develop new geriatrics training programs for every second- and fourth-year medical student.

"All doctors will need to know some geriatrics in their practices," Dr. Alford said. "This is the health care need of the future and it is our responsibility to make sure our students heed it."

The UTHSC is one of only 40 institutions selected to receive the grant award, and is one of the only health science centers in the nation to train first- and third-year students in geriatrics practice.

"In a sense, we have a head start," Dr. Alford said. "This grant gives us the impetus and the support to follow through on a lot of things we are already doing or would like to start doing."

Contact: Amanda Gallagher or Aileen Salinas