TTUHSC El Paso Accredited for Area’s First Geriatric Psychiatry Training Program

After recently gaining accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, along with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, will soon begin offering the first training program in the El Paso area for geriatric psychiatry.

Peter Thompson, M.D.

Peter Thompson, M.D.

 “We have a health care emergency with the aging of our population,” said Peter Thompson, M.D., professor and department chair of TTUHSC El Paso’s department of psychiatry. “Ten thousand baby boomers are retiring a day. Our geriatric population is just exploding and we need people who are experts to treat these individuals.”

The training program for resident physicians is desperately needed in El Paso because of a shortage of medical care for the elderly, both locally and nationally, Dr. Thompson said.

Ricardo Salazar, M.D.

Ricardo Salazar, M.D.

The fellowship in geriatric psychiatry will be a combined program with the VA, with most of the funding coming from the VA. The VA’s site director is Deborah L. Dallam, M.D., who is board certified in geriatric psychiatry. The accreditation allows for two residents to take part in the fellowship. The yearlong training will be split between working in TTUHSC El Paso’s clinical rotation and facilities of the El Paso VA health care system.

Another important part of the training will be the use of the national Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) as the model of service, said Ricardo Salazar, M.D. Dr. Salazar is an associate professor in TTUHSC El Paso’s department of psychiatry, chief of the division of geriatric psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences and head of the new training program. The residents will spend time at El Paso’s Bienvivir, one of the pioneer programs in the nation for all-inclusive care of the elderly. 

“We will be exposing the residents to this interdisciplinary model of care, where they have social workers, psychologists, physicians in primary care, etc.,” said Dr. Salazar. “They’ll also have rotations in palliative care medicine and end-of-life issues.

“We’re also going to be working very closely with the University Medical Center where the trainees will be exposed to different psychopathologies through the psychiatry consult service, and they will be rotating through the geriatric acute care for the elderly unit that we have at UMC,” said Dr. Salazar. “So, it’s going to be a very diverse program.”

 The long-term hope is that, after the fellowship, the residents will stay in the El Paso region, helping to care for the elderly.

 “We are the only training site in the nation that will be concentrating on serving the elderly population on the U.S.-Mexico border and joining the few accredited programs in the Southwest,” said Dr. Salazar. “Our fellows will receive unparalleled academic and clinical training in a multicultural and vibrant city.”