Although the country will need 30,000 geriatricians within the next two decades to meet the needs of the Senior Boom, today there are less than 6,000. Someone turns 65 every 15 minutes each day in South Carolina.
Innovative Program Established by the General Assembly in 2005
The South Carolina General Assembly approved the first Geriatric Loan Forgiveness Program in the country in 2005. This effort was supported by AARP South Carolina and the South Carolina Silver Haired Legislature.
Before the South Carolina General Assembly passed a bill to forgive medical school loans for those doctors who chose to become trained as Geriatricians, our state had 30 geriatric trained physicians to serve 510,000 patients 65 and older, a ratio of one doctor for every 17,000 patients. That number has increased since our first in the nation, loan forgiveness program passed.
People age 65 and older make up 13 percent of the US population, yet they account for one-third of all prescriptions, half of all physician visits and half of all hospital stays. The average 75-year-old patient has three chronic medical conditions and regularly uses five prescription drugs as well as multiple over the counter remedies. Changes with aging alter how the body metabolizes, absorbs and clears these drugs from the body.
Symptoms of illness can present differently in older people than in the young or middle aged. Often the key to effective management of the complex, over-lapping health challenges of older patients is a health care professional who has training and orientation in geriatric health care.
The SC Geriatric Loan Forgiveness Program was designed to attract physicians to one of two geriatric specialty practices in order to better serve the health care needs of older adults in South Carolina. It is also hoped that once a physician in the program has established a viable practice during the five year commitment period, he/she will consider continuing to practice in the field of Geriatric Medicine or Geriatric Psychiatry in South Carolina.