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UH's geriatrics program among top-ranked in nation


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POSTED: Sunday, August 02, 2009

When the geriatrics program she founded at the John A. Burns School of Medicine was ranked 13th in the nation a few years ago, Dr. Patricia Blanchette said her reaction was, “;Only 13?”;

Now she's asking, “;Only 16?”;

That was the program's ranking in the July issue of U.S. News & World Report.

There are 119 medical schools and the University of Hawaii program tied with a couple others for 16th position, Blanchette said, “;so that puts us at least in the top 20.”;

But when the program applies competitively for grants and is reviewed by a panel of peers, she said, it ranks in the top five or 10.

The John A. Hartford Foundation in New York City, major funder of geriatric programs, “;only funds for academic excellence, and in the last couple cycles, we were ranked No. 1 by them.”;

Still, the U.S. News & World Report evaluation places the UH geriatrics program among such prestigious medical schools as Johns Hopkins at No. 1, Duke University No. 4, Harvard No. 7, Yale No. 8 and Boston University No. 13.

Dr. Kamal Masaki, acting geriatrics chair, said the program's high ranking “;reflects the efforts of many people over many years. ... Everything we do in geriatrics is a team effort, and we have excellent faculty, good fellows and good staff, all of whom are committed to our programs.”;

Blanchette said she was recruited by the late Terence A. Rogers, then dean of the medical school, to start a geriatrics program when she finished a Harvard fellowship program in 1984.

“;He said why don't you come back here and build the kind of program you said we should have when you were a medical student.”;

“;One of the deals we had—I said I'm not coming back here and building a second-rate program,”; she said.

Kuakini Medical Center provided a home for the program and “;a base from which we could build,”; she said. “;They've been fabulous.”;

All UH medical students are trained in geriatrics and palliative (end of life) care, “;which has to be across the age spectrum,”; Blanchette said.

A Division of Palliative Medicine was established in 2005 and the UH medical school is the only one in the country requiring students to learn palliative care, she said.