When I started my internal medicine training, I was not sure what I should do for my fellowship training. Like most of internal medicine resident, geriatric fellowship was not in my mind at that time. While I was struggle to find the most suitable fellowship for myself, I had had the most wonderful and valuable experience with my patient. She was a tiny elderly lady who was admitted to my service with the diagnosis of urinary tract infection and mild dementia. We, meaning me and my resident, had treated her with standard treatment. After her physical status had gotten better, she still looked very depressed to me. Sometimes she cried and even screamed at nursing staffs. Nobody liked her at that time. The thought of her dementia could be secondary from her depression came to my mind. I decided to come and talk to her. It took a while before she opened up her story. She was at home by herself and just lost her husband and one son. She felt very lonely and had no friends. After we finished, she told me before I left her room “Thank you doctor. It is nice talking to you. You just brightened up my day. ” Finally we got the social service involved in the case. We tried very hard to reach another son who is in California and we did it successfully. We ended up sent her to an assisted living and recommended her to come to our local senior center. After she was discharged from the hospital, I heard from the social worker that she has been doing well. One day I walked into this senior center, as a part of our rotation in ambulatory medicine, a happy looking lady came to me and asked whether I can remember her. It was my patient. I was totally surprised how she had changed. She said “Thank you doctor for whatever you have done for me. You had made my life so happy.” Currently, she still does volunteer work at the senior center and we are very good friend with each other.
I did not know that we can help to improve the elderly life this much until it happened to me. Especially in Thailand, my home country, most of the people still think that they are old and not much that we can offer them. They sometimes have not had enough attention in their healthcare from family members even though they have their children around. After this experience had happened to me, I had an opportunity to do my elective rotation in geriatrics. I have found out very interesting things in this field such as special needs for elderly, common diseases and problems and the strong healthcare system for this group of population. These make me really like to pursue my study furthermore in this field.
More than that when I went to visit Thailand, I had a chance to talk with my professor at my medical school and discussed with her about geriatric care in Thailand. Interestingly this is the field that is growing up now. We will need a lot of geriatric staffs to build up a stronger and better system for our elderly population. She also offers me an assistant professor in my medical school when I graduate from here which I also really like it. I love to teach students and interns very much. And I would be more than happy to do this job than anything else. Furthermore I am also willing to do more research in the elderly population especially Asian population because there have not been many researches done in this group. I think working in academic medicine, combining research and teaching, will help me bring better health care to my country.