Tiffany Long, MD is a graduate of the UNC School of Medicine. As a med student, she received the 2018 Salber-Phillips Award. Currently, she is a 2021-2022 UNC Geriatric Fellow. Tiffany’s journey into geriatrics started in medical school, where she was exposed to geriatric medicine and fell in love with the patient population.
Meeting Fascinating People
What attracted her to geriatric patients? Tiffany says, “I was fascinated by their breadth of life experience. As a med student, I had time to sit and listen to patients’ stories about their lives, their past jobs, and their past loves. I learned so much from them. I also realized that when seeing an ill, aging patient, I was only seeing a sliver of their total life experience.”
Regarding geriatric medicine, Tiffany appreciates how geriatrics gives clinicians time to explore each patient’s and family’s values and goals. For her, this time with patients is equally important as any medication change or diagnosis.
“Getting to know my patients and tailoring their care to their values and goals keeps me fulfilled. I’m also never bored! And their medical history is often as complex as their lives.”
Sadly, these wise, fascinating people are often reduced to their ailments and disabilities. Considering this, Tiffany views the aging population as vulnerable and needing advocates. This keeps her motivated to care for geriatric patients.
Discovering a Love for Teaching
Tiffany’s early experiences with geriatric populations pushed her to pursue more geriatrics opportunities throughout medical school and residency. As a student, she participated in the Care of the Older Patient Scholarly Concentration which fostered geriatric experiences. As part of the concentration, she completed a scholarly project in which she created a presentation on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia (ADRD). Tiffany calls it one of her favorite medical school experiences.
“I created a curriculum and delivered it to caregivers at various senior centers throughout North Carolina. During each presentation, caregivers were engaged, asked questions, and shared their experiences. In fact, many met other caregivers and grew their support network.” Apart from enjoying the project and learning much, it helped solidify her love for teaching and community outreach for older adults. Furthermore, Tiffany even received the Salber-Phillips Award for her work on this project.
Working with Bright, Kind People
While in med school, Tiffany became well acquainted with many of the Division of Geriatrics faculty, whom she calls, “some of the brightest and kindest people I have ever met.” In fact, she chose to stay at UNC for geriatrics because of the well-rounded training and the supportive faculty and peers.
“There’s no doubt that having such positive experiences with various UNC geriatrics faculty influenced me to become a geriatrician. These physicians are so talented, humble, and giving. At the same time, they’re clinically and academically impressive, a balance that isn’t easy to strike. In my opinion, geriatrics is a field that naturally selects for these types of qualities.”
Tiffany highlights several faculty members who have influenced her. She cites Dr Roseanne Tiller’s bedside manner and compassion. “Her level of empathy with patients was palpable. I remember thinking, ‘That’s exactly how I want to interact with my patients.’” Tiffany also mentions the first medical school lecture she ever heard from Dr. Lindsay Wilson. “She made teaching appear easy and fun. Her delivery is so effective and seems effortless.”
In addition, she highlights Dr. Debra Bynum, her program director when Tiffany was a UNC Internal Medicine Resident. “Dr. Bynum has been a great source of support in my career development. She was always a phone call away. I strongly value her advice. Even after residency, we’ve stayed in touch. Dr. Bynum is one of several examples of strong women in medicine that are a part of the UNC Geriatrics Faculty.”
Pursuing a Career in Geriatric Medicine
According to Tiffany, her experiences with geriatric populations revealed that aging patients are a vulnerable group that needs specialized physicians and support. Undoubtedly, the need for geriatric education and care highly influenced her decision to pursue a career in geriatric medicine. For Tiffany, being a Geriatric Fellow is another big step towards this career. After her fellowship year, Tiffany hopes to stay in academic medicine and do a combination of teaching and clinical work.