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UNC Hospitals Hillsborough Campus
UNC Hospitals Hillsborough Campus

The opening of UNC Hospital’s Hillsborough Campus in 2015 provided a unique opportunity for medicine services to expand. Ron Falk, MD, chair of the department of medicine, envisioned a service that could be accessible and comfortable to the geriatric population, combining specialized geriatric care with all of the amenities at UNC Hospital’s new Hillsborough Campus.

On October 3, 2106, inpatient geriatrics service director Margaret Drickamer, MD, led the move in collaboration with Maureen Dale, MD, transitioning multiple patients and families from 8 Bedtower in Chapel Hill to the new service in Hillsborough.

Margaret Drickamer, MD
Margaret Drickamer, MD

“Moving inpatient geriatrics required an extraordinary amount of hands on planning,” said Cristin Colford, MD, vice chair of clinical services. “The geriatrics medicine team worked to establish the necessary processes, the details of patient care and an enhanced curriculum for residents and fellows on the care of hospitalized geriatric patients.”

Drickamer recalls events leading up to the move, as well as the longterm impact. “When the Geriatrics Division took a vote on whether we would move to Hillsborough, I voted against it. I was afraid that it would be a less intense internal medicine experience. I was wrong. It is both excellent medicine and an enlightened and enlightening experience in taking care of elderly patients. Many of us played a role in the transition of inpatient geriatrics and the broadening of the Hillsborough mission, but no one as much as Dr. Maureen Dale. We carried the torch together at first and she has run with it as I transitioned to other roles.”

In the year following the move to Hillsborough, Dale took on the role of service director, working closely with patient services manager Kittra Felton and nurse practitioner John Gotelli, MSN, RN. She created partnerships with ED faculty, who were interested in geriatrics, and hospital leadership, to constantly make improvements to the services provided to patients.

Maureen Dale, MD, and John Gotelli, MSN, GNP Maureen Dale, MD, and John Gotelli, MSN, GNP

“Quantitative data and qualitative comments show that the Hillsborough Hospital has been able to provide an exceptional experience for the older adult that has truly been hardwired into our campus culture,” said Jeff Strickler, DHA, RN, vice president for UNC Hospital’s Hillsborough Campus. “It has been nice to see the service census stabilize, and the presence of geriatrics has been a catalyst for numerous initiatives for the older adult.”

Today, the geriatrics service meaningfully impacts patients, their families and their caregivers, and the resident training program thrives. In 2018, Hillsborough’s ED was awarded the prestigious Silver Standard of accreditation for Geriatric Emergency Department excellence, and UNC Hospital’s Hillsborough Campus was the first and only hospital in North Carolina to earn this accreditation. A Duke Endowment Award to pilot a dementia-friendly hospital initiative has also helped establish and embed a dementia-friendly care structure focused on the needs of aging patients.

Jeff Strickler, DHA, RN, holds a Governor’s proclamation with Jan Busby-Whitehead, MD, and Joyce Massey Smith, director of the NC Division of Aging and Adult Services.

“In my opinion, Hillsborough is really special because of the interdisciplinary collaboration and the endless commitment to delivering wonderful patient-centered care,” said David Lynch, MD, chief resident of the UNC Internal Medicine Residency Program.  “I think a huge amount of credit must go to Dr. Dale for how these qualities have come to be such an important part of Hillsborough.”

In September, 2019, a celebration for Dementia Friendly Hospitals Day marked the successful first year of the dementia-friendly pilot training program at UNC Hospitals Hillsborough Campus. UNC Health Care is the first hospital system in North Carolina to implement dementia-friendly training at multiple hospital locations.