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Stanford introduces web-based mini-fellowship program on successful aging

In an effort to promote successful aging and end-of -life care for multi-cultural older adults, Stanford recently launched the Internet based Successful Aging (iSAGE) program. The mini-fellowship is funded with a grant from the National Institute of Minority Health Disparities, and it's being offered for free to both health-care professionals and members of the public.

The self-training program was developed by VJ Periyakoil, MD, director of palliative care education and training at Stanford, in partnership with the School of Medicine's Office of Diversity and Leadership. Hannah Valantine, MD, senior associate dean for diversity and leadership and a collaborator on the project says, iSAGE addresses the critical need to educate Americans, across racial and ethnic groups, about successful aging:

Americans are aging and becoming increasing more diverse. In order to provide the best possible care for multi-cultural American older adults, we need to activate the lay public and health personnel by increasing awareness about the principles of successful aging. Dr. Periyakoil's work is an important effort in that direction.

In the following Q&A, Periyakoil discusses the motivation for creating a web-based program and how both health-care providers and those outside the profession can benefit from it.

Why did you decide to make iSAGE web-based?

Fifty-nine percent of all adults in the U.S. seek health information online, making it the third most popular online activity. So we decided to make iSAGE web-based in order to expand its reach. iSAGE is available online 24 hours a day seven days a week, so people can complete it at their own pace and own place. The program is multi-media rich with video lectures from renowned faculty from various universities, articles, video case studies, and other resources. iSAGE also incorporates the standard Web 2.0 tools within the secure curriculum portal to enhance frank and easy communication among the participants.

What prompted your decision to make the program available to both health professionals and the general public?

The iSAGE mini-fellowship seeks to train both the general public and health professionals for the following reasons:

  • Modern medicine is overly focused on a disease-based model. The focus is not on health and well-being. iSAGE primarily focuses on the concept of holistic well-being.
  • Biomedicine is becoming increasingly esoteric and is distanced from the general public. iSAGE seeks to bring health personnel and the lay public together to create a vibrant online community, which we hope will foster exchange of ideas, innovation and discovery.
  • As a part of the iSAGE training, mini-fellows have to complete a project that aims to improve the well-being of five older adults in the community. iSAGE offers training on health and health-care of 13 common ethnic groups in the United States. Our mini-fellows come from diverse backgrounds and we hope that as a part of iSAGE they will do "in-reach" into their own community to promote successful aging.

How might members of the general public who complete the fellowship benefit from the program?

Members of the general public who are interested in entering health care and in working with older adults will certainly benefit from the training. We invite applications from people from all walks of life; engineers, lawyers, educators, administrators, city planners, transport specialists, media personnel and any others who serve an aging population are eligible to become iSAGE mini-fellows.

We also offer this training to those who are interested in becoming lay health advisers and patient navigators. The program is intrinsically flexible. The program is designed to meet mini-fellows where they currently are in their learning trajectory and then guide them through a self-paced, self-directed journey of learning, creativity and discovery. We truly believe that innovation and discovery occur most frequently when dedicated and motivated people from diverse backgrounds and experiences learn and work collaboratively. For example, an engineer and a nurse who are iSAGE fellows may find natural synergy based on their specific interests and collaborate on their mini-dissertation project to creatively use bio-design techniques to create a new assistive device to help aging patients.

How will health-care professionals who complete the fellowship benefit from the program?

Health professionals will be able to gain a deep understanding of the core principles of successful aging as it pertains to the health and health-care of multi-cultural older Americans. On successful completion of the mini-fellowship, they will receive a certificate of completion, which will enhance their professional portfolio.

Additionally, all mini-fellows will continue to remain a vital part of the iSAGE online community as alumni members long after they have completed the program.

Previously: The importance of patient/doctor end-of-life discussions, A Stanford nurse shares her experience in talking to her aging mother about end-of-life decisionsTalking about a loved one’s end-of-life wishes and Helping caregivers practice palliative care
Photo by Javier Prazak

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