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Maureen DaleMaureen Dale, MD, took the reins of the Division of Geriatric Medicine’s Fellowship program in 2020, following in Dr. Margaret Drickamer’s footsteps as Program Director. Dale’s passion for geriatrics, patient care, and mentoring the next generation of Geriatricians stand out to colleagues and Fellows.

You’ve been Associate Director of the Fellowship in Geriatric Medicine since 2017. Does being Director feel like a new role?

In some ways yes and in some, no. I’ve had the opportunity to work with Margaret Drickamer for a pretty long time, starting when I was a Geriatric Medicine Fellow at UNC. For several years now I’ve been Associate Director, with Dr. Drickamer in the Director’s role, and I’ve learned so much about how to teach and nurture the fellows going through our program. I’ve loved working with Dr. Drickamer, and am so happy that we can continue to do so, now with our roles switched!

How are you adapting this year’s Fellowship program during COVID-19?

These have been incredibly difficult times, particularly for our patient population, but it’s more important now than ever that we train excellent geriatricians. We’re proud that we’ve been able to maintain our clinical rotations safely, and have also been able to provide additional experiences in telemedicine to our fellows, which I think will be part of our practice even after the pandemic is over.

We’ve done more of our teaching conferences this year over Zoom, which has actually made it easier for people to join us — the geriatric oncology research fellows and geriatric emergency medicine fellows have been able to join more regularly, and our own fellows can attend even when they are on a rotation that is off site. It has also allowed us to bring in more speakers, who in the past have not been able to join us in person for sessions. We hope to arrange sessions with some of our fellowship alumni in the upcoming months as well.

So even in the midst of the coronavirus, we’ve been able to provide an educational experience that compares well with past years from a clinical and didactics standpoint.

What have you learned from Dr. Drickamer about how to be successful with a Fellowship Program?

I’ve learned to find joy in the challenges of running a program, and also, that taking care of the people in the program makes for a better program. And perhaps most importantly – at least to her – there’s never an occasion in which a pun is not appropriate!

What are the strengths of our clinical sites?

UNC Hospitals Hillsborough Campus is a site that offers a wonderful opportunity to experience excellent inpatient geriatrics care, with an interprofessional team committed to improving care every day. Our UNC Geriatrics clinic is another great educational experience for our fellows, and they love that they see their own panels of patients and that they have two half days of clinic weekly.

The clinic just received a Carolina Care Excellence Award. We’re the only primary care clinic in the UNC Health system to receive this award, which we’ve gotten every year since 2014. The award is based on patient satisfaction surveys, and we are really proud of being able to provide a high level of care to our patients, and, that patients report they’re consistently getting good care. Our UNC Geriatrics clinic is a great example of how an interprofessional team can work collaboratively to better the holistic care of older adults.

What attributes, in your opinion, work well for someone coming into our Geriatrics Fellowship program?

Ideal fellowship candidates are self-directed learners who will be committed to a year of understanding Geriatrics in a way they never have before. They have a love of team-based care and are open to the challenge of providing holistic care to older adults. Appreciating a good (or bad) pun never hurts, either!

2020-2021 Geriatric Fellow Carissa Lau, MDCarissa Lau, MD, is a current Fellow of Geriatric Medicine. “Dr. Dale is incredibly approachable and easy to talk to. On my Fellowship interview day, I could tell she was invested in more than just recruiting people – it felt like she was investing in me as a person,” says Lau. “I remember discussing what it means to choose this career and what career paths and options there are. It was more than just ‘what other questions do you have about our program.’ She was trying to get to know me as a person. That stood out to me.”

“I absolutely want to highlight how approachable Dr. Dale is, “ says Rosanne Tiller, MD, Assistant Professor in the Division of Geriatric Medicine and a Geriatric Medicine Fellow at UNC in 2019-2020. “When I was a resident I always felt that, and I think it’s the aspect of her leadership style that makes her such a good mentor. She’s so busy, but never too busy to check in and see how you are.”

Rosanne Tiller, MD, Division of Geriatric MedicineDr. Tiller reports a groundswell of interest at UNC in Geriatrics.

“There is so much Resident interest in Geriatrics currently. I think that’s because of people like Dr. Dale and the wonderful clinicians in the Geriatrics division,” says Tiller. “Inpatient Geriatrics at Hillsborough is where Residents get most of their exposure to Geriatrics, and Dr. Dale’s leadership there really sparks this interest. She is bringing new people into this field every year.”