Dr. Thomas Jackson is a geriatrician and clinical research fellow, investigating delirium and dementia in general hospital settings. On January 26th – 30th he attended the European Academy for Medicine of Ageing, which aims to bring together mid-career geriatricians from over Europe and beyond to improve knowledge and develop into “future teachers and leaders in geriatrics”. Here he shares his experience and reflections on a stimulating week.
With a certain trepidation I flew into a snowy Munich airport, met with colleagues from across Europe and up the hills we went; the roads getting smaller and the snow deeper. However any concerns I had were put to rest pretty much immediately. After introductions of new students we were treated to our first Teacher’s State of the Art lecture, a tour de force by Professor Jeune from Denmark about the longevity dividend from which I also learnt a lot of Greek mythology (the Tithinos error anyone?).
The key to these lectures lay in the 30 minutes of questions and discussion afterwards, something I initially was wary of but was really informative: good quality questions answered by the top people. Following coffee and cake it was our turn, with four shorter Student State of the Art lectures. I had been assigned a talk on nursing home beds across different European countries, and although nervous I was lucky as at least it was in my mother tongue. These lectures turned out again to be consistently high quality and we all received very detailed feedback on our performance, as well as feedback on how we responded to questions and indeed asked them.
This was followed by another impressive Teachers State of the Art lecture on studies of longevity. The evening started with a tutorial on beer tasting, and OSCE stations students had developed to introduce us to their countries. Thus the pattern of the week was set as we rolled on through biology of ageing, geriatric assessment, frailty, sarcopenia, nutrition. The lecture from Professor Olde-Rikkert from Nijmegen using complex systems biology and the concept of tipping points as new concepts in geriatric syndromes was especially good, as was Professor McMurdo’s powerful yet witty descriptions of multimorbidity. Small group sessions included a revealing session on how to peer review as well as a session on different approaches to delivering CGA.
In between all this formal learning was the informal learning. Mealtimes consisted of discussions about everything from geriatrics to the Scottish referendum via variations in child care provision across Europe (in which the UK doesn’t come out well). Well organised social events mostly included good food and Bayerish beer. A walk through the snowy forest resulted in me wondering what the collective noun for snowball-throwing geriatricians was?
Reflecting on a high quality week I think what was most revealing was how other countries ‘do’ geriatric medicine. The general feeling seems to be that in the UK we must be doing it well, but I think we have a tendency to look at ourselves and believe this without really looking elsewhere. Most European countries have been able to design systems around high quality geriatric care, as opposed to trying to fit high quality care into an existing system. There appears to be a much higher emphasis placed on pure comprehensive geriatric assessment (CGA), including assessment scales forming the basis of this – “If you are not delivering the CGA described in the research how do you know it is any good?”. I am certainly envious of having a full 2 hours to deliver CGA in a clinic, or 4 consultants and 11 junior grade doctors managing a 40 bedded acute geriatric unit. Perhaps we need to be more open to how our European colleagues have embraced geriatric medicine in the wake of the pioneering work here in the UK.
EAMA is a true community of practice and one I would strongly encourage people to attend.