Division Highlight: Geriatric Medicine
With the number of older adults in Vermont on the rise, the state requires physicians well-versed in the needs of this diverse population. Michael LaMantia, M.D. (at left), chief of the Division of Geriatric Medicine,
says his rapidly growing team is prepared to take on the challenge.
“Vermont will soon be the oldest state in the nation by percentage of older adults in the population,” he says. “That means that we're going to need
to increase the number of providers who are geriatricians, as well as the number of other providers who are geriatric savvy.”
The division, comprised of eight physicians and one nurse practitioner, takes the lead on many patients
seeking care for the multifaceted and overlapping health problems that often become more prevalent with age.
“Geriatricians consider themselves experts in complexity,” says LaMantia. “[They] also acknowledge the overlying
issues for many older adults, which are goals of care, the fact that some conditions don't fit neatly into an organ-based system, and the fact that providing good care often depends on thinking about that person in the context of their family
and support system.”
The division provides care through an outpatient clinic in Williston and at four skilled nursing facilities in the Burlington area. The group offers home visits as well, and LaMantia says a plan is in place
to launch an inpatient consultation service at UVM Medical Center later this year.
His team’s growth – the division has doubled in size over the past three and a half years – has been critical to continue to meet
the needs of the region served by the UVM Health Network. Division members provide expertise in a range of fields, including palliative care, osteoporosis, dementia and memory care, and advanced care planning.
Research to improve care
for older adults is ongoing through the UVM Center on Aging, where LaMantia serves as director. The center connects social scientists, engineers and other experts to physicians
and nurses engaged in research and clinical work to help spur new thinking and ideas.
“The UVM Center on Aging works hand in hand with the division to help support research efforts,” says LaMantia. “They’re
an interdisciplinary group of specialists from across the campus who are interested in issues related to aging.”
Some current research projects through the UVM Center on Aging focus on mood and memory; nutrition and brain function;
and various ways sensor technology may help improve quality of life.
Another core mission for the UVM Center on Aging is education. To that end, in addition to community education and continuing education for healthcare professionals,
the center sponsors a year-long fellowship program for medical and nursing students designed to “welcome people who are early on in their training into the world of aging.”
“We want to show them that there is a viable
career pathway here and that there's support and enthusiasm for them choosing this field,” says LaMantia.
The division hopes to get a student chapter of the American Geriatric Society off the ground in the near future, and LaMantia
is also in the beginning stages of planning a fellowship program in geriatric medicine at UVM Medical Center.
Community outreach continues to be critical for the division, as Vermont and northern New York residents seek out evidence-based
answers to questions about aging. Division faculty serve in advisory roles for many government and community agencies, including the Vermont Alzheimer’s Association, the Governor’s Commission on Aging, the Governor's Commission on
Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementia, and the Division of Aging and Independent Living. Although this year’s gerontology symposium has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UVM Center on Aging typically hosts an annual event
for professionals and family caregivers, offering opportunities for connection and information-sharing.