Training the next generation of doctors to treat older adults


By SAIL Marketing Coordinator Meghan Randolph

I’m only 36, but unfortunately, I’ve seen more than my fair share of doctor’s offices and hospitals. Diagnosed at age 8 with Type I diabetes, I also have fibromyalgia and some other chronic diseases.  I’ve also watched my mom as a caregiver for her aging parents and seen the difference between a great doctor and a bad one. 

Several years ago, I began working on a very part-time basis for the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Standardized Patient program, which was recently featured in the Wisconsin State Journal.  In this program, we pose as patients and are given a scenario to act out for the students.  Sometimes we’re part of an exam, sometimes we’re observed by a group and the students are instructed by a doctor afterward, and sometimes we speak to a group of patients about our experiences.  

I wanted to work for this program because I felt it gave me a real opportunity to help the next generation of doctors listen and focus on patients.  Unfortunately, in all the time I’ve spent with doctors in my own life, I’ve experienced a lot of refusals to listen and condescension, which impacted my health for the worse.  The good news is I’ve now seen a lot of medical students who are very adept at patient care, at saying comforting things, and at relaying information in ways that aren’t confusing, while still really knowing their stuff when it comes to medicine.  It’s very encouraging!  

The program is now focusing more extensively on treatment for seniors, as the senior population is expected to grow by 72% between now and 2040, while there is also expected to be a shortage of doctors.  Luckily, the UW School of Medicine and Marquette University have received a federal grant to help address the medical component of this issue. 

With the growing senior population, it’s incredibly important that future doctors are adept at understanding the most effective interaction, particularly if an older patient does not have a caregiver or advocate with them.  The Standardized Patient Program gives medical students the opportunity to practice this most essential component of being a great doctor. 

If you’re interested in becoming a Standardized Patient and helping with this, I can give you the person to contact. Just send me an e-mail at or call the SAIL office (I’m usually in Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday after 1pm).   It’s even a good way to earn some extra money! In the meantime, enjoy the article and remember as a patient you have a right to be heard, have your questions answered, be treated with respect, and be given information in a way that is clear and supportive!  

SAIL MEMBERS: Remember, as part of your membership, you can receive a medication review once a year at no charge.  We can also provide volunteer patient advocates to go with you to doctor’s appointments, ask questions, and make sure everything is written down.  In addition, we can recommend pre-screened providers to help you with various medical needs and equipment! 

Click here to read the Wisconsin State Journal Article



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