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December 27, 2002


Emory Physician Heads New Geriatrics Center At Grady Memorial Hospital

Jonathan M. Flacker, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine at Grady Memorial Hospital, is the medical director of the new Emma I. Darnell Geriatrics Center at Grady. The center, which opened Dec. 19, was built to provide better comprehensive medical services for elderly patients. It is named in honor of Fulton County Commissioner Emma Darnell.

"This new geriatrics center is a showpiece and tangible evidence that Grady Hospital and the Grady Health System places a high priority on excellent care for seniors," Dr. Flacker said.

According to Dr. Flacker, the center will work with several local departments and divisions that help establish community programs and initiatives for seniors. One of those organizations is the Atlanta Regional Commission on Aging, which will help coordinate services related to long-term medical care, housing assistance, home health aides, rehabilitation services, and other programs for which seniors may qualify.

The $1 million center was funded through the Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority, and was built to attract and retain seniors by providing them with clinical services that are comparable to others in the metro Atlanta area.

Before the new center opened, the area once used for geriatrics care had just one exam room and an office that doubled as an exam room. Staff shared offices, and there was hardly enough space ≠ and staff - to accommodate the more than 300 patients the center presently serves, and a number that is expected to increase substantially in the future. Dr. Flacker says the new center provides more space and specialized services for seniors and allows staff to serve more patients. A clinical manager, social worker, nurse, physician assistant, senior staff nurse, clinical assistant, and clerk are all on staff at the center.

The center, also staffed by Michael F. Lubin, MD, associate professor of medicine at Emory, and geriatricians Drs. Abimbola Akomalafe and Abraham Oyewo, both from Morehouse School of Medicine, will be "senior friendly," and is equipped with six exam rooms, a separate area for stretchers, motorized exam tables, and rooms for staff training purposes.

The geriatrics center has patients who range in age from their mid-50s to 106 years old. What makes geriatrics care unique, Dr. Flacker noted, is the approach taken with patients. Physicians, nurses, and social workers handle a myriad of medical and social issues, including appointment and transportation assistance; in-home assessments; house calls for those who are stretcher-bound; treatment for dementia, mood disorders, falls, incontinence, and Parkinsonís and Alzheimerís diseases; and helping patients keep track of their various medications.

"In geriatrics, our major focus is function and quality of life," said Dr. Flacker, who received the 2002 Health Care Provider Silver Star Award from the DeKalb County Area Agency on Aging for his work with senior citizens. "Thatís what weíre about. We have to be a lot more involved in the social situation because older folks tend to have a lot of problems all at the same time. So, instead of just taking care of their lungs, heart, arthritis and the like, weíre also addressing their emotional and social needs."

Dr. Flacker said the new geriatrics center is the only facility of its kind in Atlanta to serve a primarily underserved, African-American population.

"We try very hard to adjust our services to our patientsí needs," Dr. Flacker said. "The prescriptions I write are probably the least important part of someoneís care. Itís developing relationships with patients, planning for things that might happen, and not subjecting patients to tests and medications they donít need. Itís also deciding what their preferences are for care and then working to meet their needs."

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