Member Profiles

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Christian Bergman, M.D., CMD, FACP

Assistant Professor, Division of Geriatric Medicine

Virginia Commonwealth University

Physician Member

When I applied to medical school, one of my first tasks was to write a personal statement. Mine, like many others, was a version of “I want to help people.” I soon discovered that helping people is the most meaningful part of my work. Geriatrics offers the opportunity to enjoy deep relationships with older adults. In geriatrics, we don’t just ask about someone’s symptoms, we dig a little deeper—asking folks about hobbies, families, what sports teams they like. We develop a complete picture of the person in our care. Because so many older adults live with multiple chronic conditions, few randomized controlled research trials exist to guide our treatment strategies. That makes certain aspects of geriatrics care that much more important. We’re often asking a person what their goals of care are and what “quality of life” really means to them. 

Creating personalized care becomes a reality in geriatric medicine. And that’s why my AGS membership is so valuable. The networking that members enjoy allows us to connect with experts in many fields and discuss our practices. We connect in person at the Annual Scientific Meeting, online through outlets like MyAGSOnline, and in print through our info-packed quarterly newsletter. Another key way AGS membership has enhanced my practice is through its generous support. I get a free AGS e-membership as a resident, I’ve enjoyed travel stipends for my last two trips to the Annual Scientific Meeting, and I received reduced rates for meeting registration—essential support for an emerging geriatrician.

The Annual Scientific Meeting allows people early in their careers to have eye-opening experiences, meeting some of the leading experts in our field. At the 2015 meeting, for example, I presented a paper on gun violence, and the case triggered a fascinating dialogue about a hot and often ignored topic for our country and older adults. It was a tremendous opportunity to shed light on a topic that we don’t often get to talk about! More broadly, I’ve also volunteered as chair of the Resident Interest Group for AGS. Our goal is to help design events for the Annual Scientific Meeting geared specifically toward residents. We’re planning to promote networking opportunities for fellows and residents during the Annual Scientific Meeting, and to connect resident and student chapters across the country.

Beyond my residency and my work with AGS, the home life I share with my wife, Rebecca, is incredibly fulfilling. We have two sons—Zach was born last August and Eric is three. It’s a roller coaster, balancing home and career, and I’ve had discussions with my peers about navigating residency while raising a family. My system: I block out family time when I come home. We enjoy dinner together and have our bedtime routines with the kids. As a family, we go the beach, the zoo, and the children’s museum—things we can all enjoy. And, I just finished the Game of Thrones series. No spoilers!

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Arbis Rojas, MD

Geriatric Medicine Physician

Private Practice

Physician Member

My grandmother’s battle with progressive dementia made an enormous impression on me as a teenager. I saw first-hand how the disease and its behavioral disturbances affected her and my family as we coped with the inadequacies facing older adults in our health care system. The unhelpful doctor visits and unnecessary trips to the emergency department were particularly difficult for all of us. The awareness I developed during this experience triggered my interest in a career as a geriatrician. I see geriatrics as a personalized form of medicine, and I appreciate the way trainees are exposed to many different medical specialties, including neurology, psychiatry, and physical medicine and rehabilitation.

I joined the AGS when I began my private practice in 2016. As a board certified geriatrician, I have found that my membership helps me stay abreast of the latest advancements in our field. For example, AGS helps members learn the intricacies of CPT-coding (Current Procedural Terminology) and helps prepare them for chronic care management, annual wellness visits, and advance care planning. There has to be continual change in how geriatricians in private clinics practice medicine. Value-based medicine is the future. Where is the value in geriatric medicine? AGS is essential to us all for maintaining the focus on the value of caring for older adults. The AGS mission aligns with my professional mission: to meet the health needs of our older adult population and to focus on their independence and quality of life. I hope to contribute more to this great cause in the future as a leader, sponsor, and partner. The benefits of my AGS membership are many: attending the annual scientific conferences, exchanging ideas on the AGS website forum, and contributing as much as I can to improving the health and wellness of older adults. AGS has certainly contributed to my personal and professional growth and for this I am forever grateful.

One major benefit of my AGS membership is attending the annual meetings. I particularly enjoy meeting new colleagues and exchanging ideas. The lectures are excellent because they present various specialty fields I might not otherwise be exposed to. I take that information and create my own subspecialty clinics to assist homebound patients who cannot physically see specialists but who benefit immensely from new clinical approaches. I am working on improving the operations of the clinic from a chronic care management standpoint. I am working on a mobile and cloud application that is doctor-friendly to help better manage offices. This calls on my understanding of chronic care management in our older-adult population. Finally, I believe that the culture of how medicine is practiced has had many challenges. The cloud-based application I’m working on will hopefully mitigate many of these challenges in our office. Chronic care management is instrumental in my clinic but requires months of work in training staff and understanding systems/standard operation procedures. I believe that staff education in our outpatient offices is key to allowing our physicians to focus on patient care. Work/family balance is essential to me. I am blessed to have a wonderful wife and two great kids, Camila, 5, and Diego, 8. I enjoy my time off by exploring the world with my family and taking part in outdoor activities. I’m actually writing this from Europe, where we’re visiting places like Anncecy, France and Gruyere, Switzerland.

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David Elliott, PharmD, FASCP, AGSF, BCGP

Professor of Clinical Pharmacy

West Virginia University

Pharmacy Member

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I discovered the people I really enjoyed interacting with the most were older adults and that the area I found most intellectually challenging was the chronic conditions that older adults are often faced with. Through conversations with colleagues and others who work in geriatrics, I found that many people who decided to go into geriatrics have a long history of exposure to older adults or have been impacted by older adults in some special way. But that really wasn’t the case for me.

In the 1970’s, I was an undergraduate, trying to decide what I wanted to do professionally. As a pragmatic young man, I felt drawn to pharmacy because of my interest in the hardcore sciences, biology, and chemistry. It also didn’t hurt that at the time, you were employable as a pharmacist after completing a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy and although I loved school and loved education, I was not sure if I would get tired of it.

During the later stages of my undergraduate years, I realized that I did, in fact, want to pursue post graduate education. An emerging field at the time that caught my attention was clinical pharmacy. While these programs were available mostly across the United States, they were not in Western Canada, where I grew up and was pursuing my undergraduate degree.

So, I applied to programs in the United States and enrolled in a program at the University of Texas, based in San Antonio. There, I completed my PharmD program and met my wife. Our first jobs were in Chicago and we loved Chicago, but then we decided we wanted to settle down in a smaller area so we ended up in Charleston, West Virginia, where I was hired by West Virginia University and worked in acute care for a few years. It was at this time that I realized that the people I really enjoyed interacting most with were older adults in the hospital.

I joined The American Geriatrics Society in 1999, after being introduced to the organization by Todd Semla. I’ve always belonged to professional organizations, although early in my career they were mainly pharmacy organizations. One of the professional organizations I was and still am a part of is the American Society of Consulting Pharmacists because of their focus on long-term geriatric care through a pharmacist’s lens. I met Todd through the geriatrics interest group within another pharmacy organization and he was the person who suggested that the AGS might be a good fit for me.

Through a little research of my own, I saw that the AGS membership was comprised of the same folks that I was already working with, and so I decided to join. After I attended my first Annual Meeting, I truly felt like I belonged and could tell immediately that it fit my professional needs. I believed it would help me better serve the needs of older adults while also helping me grow as a better educator and scholar in the field of geriatrics. (It did!)

My favorite part of being an AGS member is the networking experience and the people I have had the pleasure to meet and work with. I have been fortunate enough to have served on several committees over the years and have really enjoyed working with fellow AGS members. Building a network of people that I can turn to when I have questions or need support has been invaluable.

I also really value the educational components the AGS provides to its members including at the Annual Meeting as well as their many products, such as the Geriatrics At Your Fingertips and the AGS Beers Criteria. I browse JAGS, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, cover to cover each month that it is published.

Now that I am in the later stages of my career, I want to ensure that the University and Health system that I work for continues to have a pharmacy presence in the practice setting when I choose to retire. It is important to me that the work I am doing now helps future patients as well as pharmacy and medical learners who are interested in geriatrics. AGS has helped me in my journey as I am sure they will help others in theirs.

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Belinda Setters, MD, MS, FACP, AGSF

Chief, Geriatrics & Extended Care

Veterans Administration

Physician Member

I knew I wanted to be a geriatrician the first time I realized there was such a thing. I was in my second year of medical school when a tall, quiet, and rather unassuming doctor brought a patient to help demonstrate movement disorders in older patients. He and the patient were both amazing. I just could not get enough of this idea that a doctor could only take care of older patients. It was truly inspiring. Now, like most geriatricians, I really came to this point much earlier in life though. I was fortunate to have been raised close to my grandparents, whom I adored. They were wonderfully kind, compassionate country folks who never met a stranger and often fed numerous friends and family on any given night. They worked hard, even into retirement years, but always had time for us grandkids. And we knew it. I have such fond memories of those times and also of the gaggle of “adopted” grandparents with whom I was blessed. These older adults were close family friends who lived in our small community and helped care for my brother and me when we were younger. They also had lasting impacts on both of our lives. Given this immensely rich experience, how could I not be a geriatrician? In the classic flow through medical school rotations, I tinkered with the excitement of OB deliveries, the adrenaline of the ED, and the intrigue of infectious diseases, but I always quickly came back to geriatrics. It was simply meant to be. And when I had the opportunity as a fourth year student to rotate on geriatrics, it sealed the deal. I had found my home. 

And just as I was meant to be a geriatrician, I was also meant to be a member of AGS. When I was discovering my love of geriatrics in residency, I found a medical society comprised entirely of professionals who care for older adults! How amazing was this? I felt like I was on top of the world when I joined AGS at the end of my residency. I was so excited to go into my fellowship as a “member” of this elite group of providers who shared my passion. How could this get any better? I was convinced I had made it. This was the definition of success. When I landed my first job as an academic geriatrician hired to build a hospital program (my personal passion!), I discovered an even bigger connection with the society. I met colleagues who were having the same struggles I was: trying to secure program support, finding mentors for projects and grants, helping with teaching slides for sudden fill-in lectures, and developing handouts for families in need of more information about dementia. I found CME opportunities focused on just what I wanted to learn, board prep materials, white papers, and more. And then I got hooked on the meetings. I met people who really, truly got me. People who think like I do, who have the same passion, commitment, and dedication to advancing the care of older adults as I do, and who love to talk about how we can make the healthcare system better for older adults everywhere. I’ve had the opportunity to write chapters and papers, work on projects and advance programs, start pilots, etc. because I met these amazing peers. And when I needed to shift jobs, I found mentors who helped guide me through the decision process and show me what a wide breadth the field of geriatrics has to offer. I cannot imagine my career without AGS. It’s true. This group of wonderful professionals has enriched my career for the better. And I look forward to each annual meeting as a kind of family reunion sans cool shirts with family pictures, although maybe that is an idea for a future meeting. In the meantime, I think my wife will keep telling people in May that I’ll be out of town for “Geri-palooza”. 

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Kah Poh Loh, B.Med.Sci., M.B.B.Ch., B.A.O.

Senior Instructor

Department of Medicine, Hematology/Oncology (SMD)

Physician Member

I’ve been a member of the American Geriatrics Society since my first year of residency, so it’s been nearly a decade now. I joined as a trainee member because I knew I had an interest in geriatrics and became a full member in 2019—and I’ve enjoyed wonderful career-boosting benefits ever since.

As just one benefit of my AGS membership, I’ve met and worked with a diverse group of geriatric professionals from many different institutions. When I first got involved, I was responsible for the Residents’ Sessions. Through that experience, I got to know a lot of trainees who were strictly on the geriatrics track. During my eight years there, I was able to work with and build collaborations with other geriatrics trainees, and now I’m the Vice-Chair of the Cancer and Aging Special Interest Group. That role allows me to foster collaborations among healthcare professionals who are interested in cancer and aging.

When asked which came first, my interest in oncology or my interest in geriatrics, I’d have to answer that I’ve been interested in oncology since medical school, when I became involved in cancer research. From there, I developed an interest in the clinical side, and found that seeing patients with cancer really taught me a lot—the advances in research and clinical practice makes the specialty really interesting and challenging.

It wasn’t until my residency that I became aware of geriatrics—I hadn’t realized that geriatric oncology existed. The field was new, and had only really begun in the early-to-mid 2000’s. My residency program at that point was at Bay State where I got to work with Dr. Maura Brennen. She’s very active in AGS and she really nurtures residents’ interest in geriatrics. Truth be told, when I did a geriatrics rotation during my intern year, I wasn’t sure that it was for me at first, because of the challenges that older patients and their often-complex medical problems can present. 

But by the end of that rotation, I found that I’d learned a lot of medicine—and the experience taught me a great deal in terms of approaching patients who have 10 or 15 other medical problems. I came to see that working with older patients was both challenging and rewarding, but I had a hard time figuring out how to combine geriatrics and oncology. And then I learned that Boston University had a combined geriatrics and oncology fellowship that was perfect for me. I ended up applying for it, and now I specialize in taking care of older adults with cancer, specifically those with blood cancer.  

Recently, I was delighted to receive the Arti Hurria Award for Emerging Investigations in Internal Medicine Focused on the Care of Older Adults, awarded by AGS and the AGS Health in Aging Foundation. 

I was especially honored to receive this award, because Dr. Hurria is a close friend of my mentor, the geriatric oncologist Dr. Supriya Mohile. I got to interact with Dr. Hurria quite a bit since meeting her in my third year of residency. I think of her as kind and a fierce advocate for older adults — she has an amazing ability to unite people around her vision. She was a devoted mentor with a passion for raising up the next generation of geriatric oncologists. This has affected me deeply, and I strive to continue her work and live up to the example she set. So, getting this award really means a lot to me, and I hope I can inspire people that taking care of older adults with cancer is important and rewarding work.
 

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Lauren Ferrante, MD, MHS

Assistant Professor of Medicine

Yale School of Medicine

Physician Member

'I’ve wanted to be a doctor ever since I was a little kid. It sounds cliché, I know, but my motivation was that I just wanted to help people. Although I didn’t start my career with an interest in aging, it developed when I was a neuroscience major in college studying Alzheimer’s disease. I found the topic fascinating and worked in Alzheimer’s labs during my undergrad years and before medical school.

Then, when I became an internal medicine resident at Columbia early in my fellowship, I noticed how many older adults there were in the ICU. I became interested in how certain geriatric factors, like frailty and functional dependence, affected the outcomes of these patients—especially those who survived their ICU stay. 

I realized that many of them were going home with low levels of physical function, and I hated seeing that happen. I wanted to understand how we can make sure that we’re helping older adults to stay independent and live their lives in their communities, even if they’ve been through an illness that put them in the ICU.

What I like best about my work is that, whether I’m doing research or administering clinical care in the ICU, it all has a unified goal: helping people to function better and preserve their quality of life after they’ve been in the ICU. I love that feeling of being able to help people in ways that matter to them. 

For me, the AGS has been an amazing resource over the years. I joined at the very beginning of my career, when I started my geriatrics fellowship in 2013. The AGS provides a forum for specialists of all different backgrounds who are interested in aging to come together—and that community has been an important part of my career development. 

I now co-chair AGS’ sub-specialty section, which I joined in my early days as an AGS member The entire AGS group was very welcoming to me. That hospitality is  so important  to aging-focused specialists like me, because you need to be part of the geriatrics community when you’re trying to raise the visibility of geriatrics and aging in your specialty.

Another great reason to be an AGS member is the Annual Scientific Meeting! Although it was held virtually this year, the AGS staff planned really well for it,  pre-recording many of the sessions. The diverse format preserved the excitement of meeting in person. We’re all looking forward now to finally meeting in one place next year in Orlando!.

When I’m not working, I go on a daily run, and I spent time with my two wonderful children, ages five and seven, and my wonderful husband every day. This year, we’ve moved our fun times outdoors. We went hiking every weekend during the fall, and we skied every weekend in the winter. We wanted to be sure we were spending active time together in a safe way.

Here’s my message to you: please know that the AGS is a great community for specialists who do aging-focused research, and there’s actually quite a large community of member specialists. Come join us!"

 

Our Membership Team is here for you. Ask us a question, share your suggestions and provide feedback.
Contact us: membership@americangeriatrics.org  or 212.308.1414.

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