Empowering Students to Make a Difference

BY MAJA GAWRONSKA

There is a dire need for geriatricians and doctors focusing on older adults. Our MSTAR program is addressing this challenge.

When Justin Yamamoto, a medical student from the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine, was selected to participate in our Medical Student Training in Aging Research (MSTAR) program a few years ago, he was just starting to ponder his career choices.

Thanks to his work under a mentorship of Deborah Kado, MD, professor of medicine in the UC San Diego Department of Family and Preventive Medicine and Department of Internal Medicine, Yamamoto has developed the tools and knowledge he needs to care for older adults and is becoming a champion among his peers.

For his MSTAR research on aging bones, Yamamoto received the 2015 American Geriatrics Society Clinical Student Research Award presented to students who submit the most outstanding abstract. A manuscript based on this work recently was published in the journal PLOS ONE. Yamamoto recently matched for his residency at USC and is planning to focus on aging as a physician and researcher.

Unfortunately, his interests are not common.

There is a shortage of health-care providers who specialize in geriatrics. According to the American Geriatrics Society, 97 percent of all medical students in the United States do not take a single course in geriatrics. Yet, little is being done to address this challenge.

"Developing a cadre of physician-scientists devoted to forwarding knowledge and treatment for older adults is essential to meet the growing needs of American society," said Dilip V. Jeste, MD, senior associate dean of healthy aging and senior care at UC San Diego.

Trainee pool is a crucial issue. This is why the Stein Institute and the UC San Diego Center for Healthy Aging are hosting students from all over the country in the MSTAR program, funded by the National Institute of Aging. Since 2005, this popular program has been providing as many as eighteen medical students an opportunity to conduct two to three months of summer research guided by the mentorship of a faculty member. Students receive full-time training while conducting hands-on research in an area of personal interest pertaining to aging or an age-related disorder. Additionally, students participate in a variety of clinical activities and didactics that help shape their knowledge base related to aging.

Congratulations to our trainees, and a big thank you to the dedicated mentors who volunteered their valuable time.