In their words: Scholarly Concentration Q&A with Aging Studies co-directors
In 2019, IU School of Medicine launched Scholarly Concentrations. To help students decide if a concentration topic is the right fit, concentration co-directors shared the inside scoop—from why they got involved in the concentration to how a specific topic can help students reach their goals.
Introduce yourself. Who are you and why did you decide to become involved in this Scholarly Concentration topic?
Robert Sweazey, PhD: I’m the assistant director of the IU School of Medicine-Fort Wayne campus. I became involved with the Scholarly Concentration in Aging Studies to provide exciting new and focused educational opportunities to students across the state.
Leslie Hoffman, PhD: I am an assistant professor at the IU School of Medicine-Fort Wayne campus, where I teach the Human Structure course. I was recruited to help with the Aging Studies concentration because of my background in education and curriculum design.
Tell us about your experience related to this concentration topic.
Sweazey: Having spent eight years as an intraoperative neurophysiologist working with patients who have Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder most frequently associated with aged individuals, I came to appreciate the special challenges associated with diagnosing and treating older patients. I am also part of a research team that studies stroke and neurodegenerative disorders.
Hoffman: I worked in a nursing home for several years in high school and college, so I’ve seen how aging can affect an individual’s physical, mental and emotional well-being. It was an enriching experience to be able to help elderly individuals continue to live fulfilling lives with dignity and autonomy.
What are you most excited about in regards to Scholarly Concentrations and your concentration topic?
Sweazey: The Scholarly Concentration program offers an excellent opportunity for students to pursue in depth an area of medicine they find interesting. I am excited to provide an Aging Studies concentration that examines the special health, diagnostic and treatment difficulties associated with one of the most rapidly expanding segments of the U.S. patient population.
Hoffman: I’m excited to bring together experts from many different disciplines to create an interactive curriculum that introduces our students to the unique health care needs of an aging population.
What are the two or three most important or interesting things students should know about this concentration?
- It is important for future physicians to understand the physical, mental, emotional and social changes that can impact the health of the elderly.
- Regardless of specialty, all physicians interact with elderly individuals, and many will be responsible for diagnosing their disorders and developing treatment plans. Therefore, an understanding of aging population special needs is invaluable.
- The Aging Studies concentration has a high degree of flexibility and an opportunity to explore a wide range of interests.
How is this concentration beneficial to a student’s personal and professional goals?
The Aging Studies concentration helps students gain a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities that affect aging populations. Increasingly, care of aging populations requires the collaboration of an interprofessional health care team. The knowledge acquired in this concentration helps students become a confident member of an interprofessional health care team. The concentration also allows students to consider innovative solutions for delivering quality health care to the elderly.
Some students may have a hard time deciding which concentration to choose. How can a student decide if this topic is the best fit for them?
Students should consider their future professional interests. Because many areas of medicine include disorders associated with aging, the Aging Studies concentration is useful across many medical disciplines.
What are the special resources and/or expertise on this concentration’s home campus?
IU School of Medicine-Fort Wayne and Indiana University-Fort Wayne serve the health education needs of Northeast Indiana. These institutions work with community partners to deliver quality health education experiences that include both general and specialty treatment of the elderly.
Many opportunities exist to collaborate with Fort Wayne health care providers that serve the aged population, including:
- A fall prevention clinic
- A telemedicine-based stroke care network
- An active county health department that identifies and addresses the needs of Northeast Indiana
- Numerous physicians who diagnose and treat the special health problems associated with aging
What is the academic and social culture like on the home campus?
IU School of Medicine-Fort Wayne is located on the shared campus of Indiana University Fort Wayne and Purdue Fort Wayne, a campus of more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students. IU-Fort Wayne offers health-related programs in multiple disciplines including nursing, social work, medical imaging, and dental sciences as well as opportunities for interprofessional collaboration across disciplines. As Indiana’s second largest city, Fort Wayne is home to two large medical complexes and multiple opportunities to explore the special problems faced when dealing with the aging population.