Specialist Spotlight: Geriatrics
Growing up in India, Farooq Hussain always wanted to be a doctor.
“There were many physicians on my mother’s side, and three of my four siblings are also in the medical field – a cardiologist, ENT and dentist,” said Dr. Hussain.
However, it wasn’t until he came to the United States that he realized he had a passion for caring for older adults.
“I like sitting and chatting with my patients,” he said. “It’s important to understand how their illnesses are affecting their quality of life so that I know how to better treat them – both physically and emotionally.”
Dr. Hussain is one of only 7,500 board certified geriatricians in the country specially trained to meet the unique healthcare needs of this growing population. That may seem like a large number, but according to the American Geriatric Society, our nation needs an estimated 17,000 geriatricians to care for about 12 million older Americans. By 2030, people age 65 and older are expected to account for nearly 20% of the population and about 30% of the 65-plus patient population will need a geriatrician.
“When I entered my family medicine residency in Wichita Falls, Texas in 2010, only 75 physicians were entering geriatric fellowship programs in the U.S.,” said Dr. Hussain. “I saw a need for physicians like me who really enjoy caring for senior patients.”
Dr. Hussain was accepted into a geriatrics fellowship in 2013 at Loyola University Medical Center and Hines VA Hospital to study the aging process and develop the skill set needed to assess, diagnose and treat chronic diseases such as arthritis, congestive heart failure, dementia, depression, diabetes, hypertension and osteoporosis – just to name a few. As part of the fellowship program, he spent much of his time at an extended care and assisted living facility caring for patients while conducting research on the impact of nursing education in fall prevention.
He says illnesses, diseases and medications affect people differently as we age. “Older patients often have multiple health problems and take multiple medications that can wreak havoc on their bodies and minds. This is where I come in as many primary care doctors are uncomfortable treating elderly patients with complicated medical problems.
Unlike other physicians who might specialize in one organ system or disease, geriatricians, like Dr. Hussain, are adept at treating patients who sometimes are managing five to eight chronic conditions. He also pays special attention to a person’s cognitive and functional abilities, including walking, eating, dressing and other activities of daily living.
“I treat my patients with a holistic approach and incorporate their family member and caregivers every step of the way,” explains Dr. Hussain, who describes himself as a perfectionist. “I want to help my patients be as functional as possible and exist in the community in the best way possible.”