Meet the AGS’ New President: Sharon A. Brangman, MD
The healthcare reform legislation President Obama signed into law this spring doesn't resolve all the challenges facing geriatrics. But it does make significant inroads with many, says Dr. Brangman, professor of medicine, chief of the Division of Geriatrics, and director of both the geriatric medicine fellowship program and the Central New York Alzheimer's Disease Assistance Center at SUNY Upstate Medical University.
The medical university, where she has taught for 20 years, recently honored her accomplishments in the field by establishing the Sharon A. Brangman, MD, Endowed Professorship in Geriatric Medicine. At Upstate , Dr. Brangman developed the most comprehensive ambulatory practice and interdisciplinary team in geriatric medicine in the region, and launched the area's only Acute Care for the Elderly Program for patients admitted to University Hospital. She also created both an innovative curriculum in geriatric medicine for students, and Upstate's Geriatric Medicine Fellowship Program, which she directs. In addition to her work at the university, she serves as Medical Director for Greenpoint/The Hearth Senior Living Communities, and as an attending physician at James Square Health and Rehabilitation Centre in Syracuse.
A member of the AGS since 1986, Dr. Brangman began her term as president in May, during the Society's Annual Meeting. She has been a member of AGS' Board of Directors since 2002 and of the board of the AGS Foundation for Health in Aging (FHA) since 2007. She finished her second term as AGS' Treasurer in May, and has been a member and the chair of several of the Society's committees. A member of the Editorial Board for AGS' three-volume series, Doorway Thoughts: Cross Cultural Health Care for Older Adults, she has done research and written extensively about ethnicity and health in later life, geriatrics training, and dementia.
"The healthcare reform law has a lot to offer seniors, geriatrics, and those of us in the field, but there's still a lot that needs to happen to ensure that geriatrics remains a viable specialty -- and AGS has an important role to play in this," Dr. Brangman says, noting that the Society advocated long and hard for the many geriatrics-friendly provisions in the new reform law. "The AGS has been successful in identifying the issues and developing strategies for addressing them, and is now recognized as a resource in Washington so that, when ideas or proposals come up, we are now consulted. This is very positive."
Among other things, the new legislation will help address leading contributors to geriatrics workforce shortages by increasing Medicare reimbursement and expanding training, she notes. Reforms will also cut Medicare beneficiaries' out-of-pocket expenses. And, in a variety of ways, reform provisions will encourage the testing and implementation of promising new models of care, including those providing coordinated interdisciplinary team care, and home-based care, for older patients with multiple chronic conditions or cognitive impairment. In addition, reforms will enhance seniors' long-term care options so more can age in place. (See related story)
Despite this, many older Americans are leery of the legislation, Dr. Brangman acknowledges. That's why continued public education efforts aimed at informing seniors of the benefits the reform law affords them are imperative.
"We've been making headway in raising public awareness of the importance of geriatrics care, and we also need to be part of the public dialogue that informs seniors about the changes the reform law brings about, and how it benefits older people," says Dr. Brangman, who would like to see the AGS Foundation for Health in Aging develop a strategic plan for helping seniors and others understand what reforms will accomplish, and what still needs to be done. "There have been so many inflammatory and inaccurate statements made about reform and I think these have frightened our patient population," she continues. "I see the AGS as being critical in communicating factual information in a way people can understand. "
AGS' leaders and members alike will also have to continue to work with lawmakers and involve the public in advocacy efforts on behalf of other essential policy changes, says Dr. Brangman. Among other things, the Society and its members need to continue to press for a viable alternative to Medicare's untenable Sustainable Growth Rate formula. And they need to push for greater investment in geriatric research, and geriatric training programs. It's essential that medical schools and residency programs provide adequate geriatrics training, says Dr. Brangman, "since there aren't enough geriatricians to go around."
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