Through UNE program, health professions students learn from elder teachers in the community

Through UNE program, health professions students learning from elder teachers in the community

November 28, 2017

Students participating in the University of New England’s Interprofessional Geriatric Education Program (IGEP) finished the semester with a special presentation from a local Holocaust survivor living at the OceanView retirement community in Falmouth, Maine.

For more than two decades, IGEP has brought UNE students from a variety of health professions together to learn from “elder teachers” in the greater Portland community. The students work in interdisciplinary teams, meeting with the same elder teacher three times over the course of each semester. The goal is to get to know these older adults through conversation, learning about their lives and in doing so, gaining a greater understanding of how to treat older adults in their various disciplines.

After their final meetings this semester, students from the Westbrook College of Health Professions Physician Assistant program, College of Osteopathic Medicine, College of Dental Medicine and College of Pharmacy had the opportunity to hear Edith Pagelson speak. Pagelson, who has served as an elder teacher in the program, shared her story about surviving the Holocaust, a story captured in her book, Against All Odds, A Miracle of Holocaust Survival. As Pagelson shared snap shots of her life experience, students were professional, respectful, attentive and touched by her story. 

“It is these experiences that will allow our students to reflect and be present with the people they help within their chosen professions,” said Victoria Thieme, D.O., faculty member in the College of Osteopathic Medicine. “It is these collaborative experiences that will allow our students to lead and guide their teams within the health care system toward healing physically, emotionally, cognitively and socially.”

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