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<p>Robert Sweazey, PhD, and Leslie Hoffman, PhD, share details on the Health Care Integration and Healthy Aging Scholarly Concentration, which&nbsp;focuses on improving outcomes while reducing costs of healthcare for patients in a community setting.</p>

In their words: Scholarly Concentration Q&A with Health Care Integration and Healthy Aging co-directors

map shows the location of the healthy aging concentration in fort wayne

Since launched in 2019, IU School of Medicine’s Scholarly Concentrations Program has grown and evolved. To help students decide if a concentration topic is the right fit, concentration co-directors share the latest insights—from why they got involved in the concentration to how a specific topic can help students reach their goals.

Topic: Health Care Integration and Healthy Aging
Location: Fort Wayne
Leslie Hoffman, PhD, and Robert Sweazey, PhD

Introduce yourself. Who are you and why did you decide to become involved in this Scholarly Concentration topic?

Leslie Hoffman, PhD – I am an associate professor of clinical anatomy, cell biology, and physiology at the IU School of Medicine in Fort Wayne. I chose to become involved in the scholarly concentration because our director here on this campus asked if I would become involved and I was happy to help.

Robert Sweazey, PhD – I'm the assistant director at the IU School of Medicine in Fort Wayne, and associate professor of anatomy, cell biology, and physiology, and I got involved for similar reasons. In addition, I have conducted research into aging and have worked on a brain bank for Alzheimer's disease and related disorders. So, it fits that I would become involved in a scholarly concentration that in part has aging as a component.

Tell us about your experience related to this concentration topic.

Hoffman – We need to improve health throughout our lifespan so that we stay healthy as we age and just have a more integrated healthcare system so that different providers communicate with each other to coordinate care and make things more accessible as we age.

Sweazey – the aging population is the fastest growing population in this country and has the greatest number of health needs from polypharmacy to multiple healthcare conditions that have to be addressed.

The integration of care across the system is not great, and if we're going to maximize care for the elderly population, we need to better integrate different health professionals. And I think that's what our concentration focuses on – how to integrate that care. We just use the elderly population because it’s such a good example of people who need an integrated healthcare system.

Having run this concentration for a few years now, what has been the most exciting thing for you to see?

Hoffman – I think the most exciting part is just seeing our students getting involved in research and getting publications, and also bringing in more research mentors. So, we now have students that are doing research in public health, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. It's just really exciting that our students are branching out and doing research that's related to a lot of different aspects of aging.

Sweazey – I would say since we started, one important change that I've seen is more successful collaborations with the geriatric program in Indianapolis and also with (The Richard M. Fairbanks School of) public health that helped us develop additional course material.

What are the two or three most important or interesting things students should know about this concentration?

Sweazey – I think one important thing is that you can customize how you pursue this scholarly concentration. There is also a public health component here, especially in research that students delve into. I think that an important thing about our concentration is if you have a particular interest, we can usually find a research mentor to help you so that you can pursue something that interests you.

Hoffman – Yes, I think another important thing for students to know is that although we have aging in the title of our scholarly concentration, it's not limited to students who are just interested in geriatrics. It's largely about integrating care, and you're going to be working within a healthcare system regardless of what specialty you choose.

It's important to understand how to work within that healthcare system and how to integrate care among different providers and among different specialties as well as just being aware of community resources and different public health resources that are available to help care for your patient regardless of what demographic.

How is this concentration beneficial to a student’s personal and professional goals?

Sweazey – I think as student professionals it allows them to first learn research techniques and even go on beyond how to successfully conduct research and then publish their research findings. That is critical going forward for our students. It's a lifelong learning skill that they'll employ throughout their career.

Hoffman – Maybe on a more personal level, it's going to help our students get into a good residency. It's going to help them stand out on their residency applications.

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?

Hoffman – It is a personal interest, obviously if students have an interest in geriatrics, this is going to be a very natural fit. But even if students are just interested in family medicine or internal medicine, they're going to be working with an aging population regardless of what specialty they choose. So, I think this scholarly concentration is going to be applicable for a lot of different students and a lot of different interests.

Sweazey – I think that pretty much summarizes it well.

What are the special resources and/or expertise on this concentration’s home campus?

Sweazey – We have a wide range of individuals who are involved with health integration as well as geriatrics. A good example is our director and associate dean, Doctor Fen-Lei Chang. He runs a fall clinic and has an active clinical research program as well. And then there are numerous mentors available here at IU School of Medicine-Fort Wayne who work on integration-related topics, as well as geriatric topics.

What is the academic and social culture like on the home campus?

Sweazey – We are a regional campus with a relatively small class size of 32 students. As far as the social environment is concerned, all our students are good friends. They get to know each other in these small classes, and they do things together, so it's a real collegial type of environment for students who are not just doing the scholarly concentration but attending the campus academically. There are also a lot of support systems in place to help the students succeed. Because we are a smaller campus, students get to know the faculty, and faculty get to know their students, and they are always there to help them if they're struggling. We also have social support services as all campuses do.
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The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.