Tomorrow's doctors form society to help elderly

Tomorrow's doctors form society to help elderly

A group of medical students at the University of Aberdeen have formed what is believed to be Europe's first undergraduate medical society for the promotion of geriatric medicine and quality care for older people.

The Geriatric Medicine Student Society (GEMSS) is a forum for students with a special interest in care of the elderly and its main aims are to: 

  • Provide members with further educational opportunities in the care of older people.
  • Promote both geriatric medicine as a career.
  • Help raise awareness to the need for improved standards of care of older people across all medical specialties.
  • Offer opportunities to interact and learn from older people in a number of community and healthcare settings.
  • Promote research about efficacy of services and treatments available for older people

Third-year medical student Rebecca Irwin is the founder and president of GEMSS which has already attracted 120 Aberdeen medical students to its ranks.

She said: “'My experience of working with elderly people, both in a care home setting and in my undergraduate studies, inspired me to set up a society that would give students the opportunity to gain new skills and learn more about this specialty. I have always been interested in geriatric medicine as a career path and I would love to see people's perception change with regards to care of the elderly. We see geriatric patients across many fields of medicine and so this society will hopefully allow students to gain knowledge and improve future standards of care.'

A number of educational seminars and a befriending scheme are planned by the fledgling society. The first event marking GEMMS’ official launch takes place on Wednesday (December 11) and is a talk being given by Professor Paul Knight, President of the British Geriatrics Society.

Professor Knight said: “Older adults are the main users of health services in most developed countries and it is imperative that we have a workforce that is properly trained to care for this group of people who often have complex needs. Therefore it is great news that students at Aberdeen University Medical School have set up this new society to further the health care of older people as it is salutary to note that in a recent survey only 19 out of 30 UK medical schools could describe structured teaching in the care of older people.”

Dr Roy Soiza, Consultant Geriatrician with NHS Grampian and Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer in elderly medicine at the University of Aberdeen, said: “The birth of GEMSS is hugely significant because geriatric medicine has historically been relatively unpopular with medical students.

“There are multiple reasons for this but it is largely related to the very challenging and complex nature of effectively treating frail older people with multiple comorbidities. This can be off-putting to those early on in their training, who might think it a lost cause.

“Given our rapidly ageing population, it is imperative that we develop a healthcare workforce that has the right attitude and skills in dealing with older people. It is hugely encouraging that the University has so many students that already see that, far from being hopeless, good quality and effective care of older people is crucial to the heath service and society as a whole.

“These are exciting times for all of us involved in the care of older people in Aberdeen. We have a brand new Geriatric Assessment Unit in the new Emergency Care Centre at Foresterhill. This is arguably the best set-up in Scotland for the delivery of early comprehensive geriatric assessment and will benefit patients, students and trainees alike.

“The new Academic Centre for Applied Clinical and Translational Research into Ageing at the University is another hugely exciting development. The establishment of GEMSS is the icing on the cake.”

For more information on GEMSS, please contact Rebecca Irwin ( or GEMSS secretary Jenni Galloway (