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[August 2, 2010]  

Who Will Care for America’s Aging Boomers?
Carl Cohen, MD, Awarded $3.68 Million to Train Geriatric Specialists at SUNY Downstate

By the year 2030, the number of Americans older than 65 is expected to nearly double. Experts predict a looming health crisis unless more professionals are trained to care for the elderly.
Toward this end, Carl I. Cohen, MD, distinguished service professor and director of geriatric psychiatry at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, provides training in geriatric care to physicians, dentists, and mental health professionals in Brooklyn through the Geriatric Fellowship Program. Since 2003, his work has been funded by a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which just renewed the grant at $3.68 million for five years.
Caring for the elderly is very different from treating younger patients. Some conditions common among the elderly, such as dementia, delirium, and falls, are rarely seen by physicians who treat only younger or middle-aged adults. Knowing how to distinguish between disease states and the normal effects of aging requires specialized knowledge and experience.
“One important difference between treating older and younger adults is that the elderly often have trouble making health decisions for themselves,” explains Dr. Cohen, whose patients are, for the most part, elderly people of color with mental health challenges. “Maintaining an older person’s functional ability, independence, and quality of life is a main concern of health providers who specialize in geriatric care.”
The training program employs an interdisciplinary approach. Fellows are exposed to a variety of community settings and disciplines, such as psychiatry, dentistry, neurology, and end-of-life care. They receive instruction in information technology, administration, pedagogical methods, and cross-cultural issues, and may take courses in Downstate’s School of Public Health and obtain an MPH or doctoral degree.
The grant renewal is the largest award Dr. Cohen’s fellowship program has received. Mohammed Nurhussein, MD, chief of geriatric medicine, and Julius Berger, DDS, professor emeritus of surgery, serve as co-directors.


SUNY Downstate Medical Center, founded in 1860, was the first medical school in the United States to bring teaching out of the lecture hall and to the patient’s bedside. A center of innovation and excellence in research and clinical service delivery, SUNY Downstate Medical Center comprises a College of Medicine, Colleges of Nursing and Health Related Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, a School of Public Health, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and an Advanced Biotechnology Park and Biotechnology Incubator.

SUNY Downstate ranks eighth nationally in the number of alumni who are on the faculty of American medical schools. More physicians practicing in New York City have graduated from SUNY Downstate than from any other medical school.