Take Five with Dr. Thrall

If you ask Dr. Sam Thrall what led him to pursue a career as a geriatrician, he’ll likely refer back to the four C’s – complexity, comprehensive care, collaboration and communication

The following is provided by Micaela Grant, communications specialist at Niagara Health:

If you ask Dr. Sam Thrall what led him to pursue a career as a geriatrician, he’ll likely refer back to the four C’s.

Complexity, comprehensive care, collaboration and communication – four critical aspects of providing support to older adults and the framework that sparked his interest in the field while pursuing his medical studies.

Dr. Thrall’s strong desire to serve his community and relieve suffering began long before he put on his white coat. His passion for caring for older adults stemmed from a personal connection with his grandparents.

From a young age, he witnessed firsthand the unique opportunities and challenges they faced in the healthcare system. He found himself intrigued by not only the challenges, but the potential for improved quality of life and functional well-being in the face of medical complexity.

Dr. Thrall pursued his medical education at McGill University, followed by specialized geriatric training at McMaster University. Eventually, he found his way to Niagara, attracted by the region’s demographics and Niagara Health’s commitment to improving care for older adults.

“Niagara is an ideal place to practice for a geriatrician, with its demographics being the third highest in Canada for individuals ages 85 and above,” he says. “Niagara Health believes in the work of geriatricians and caring for older adults. It was the perfect fit.”

Dr. Thrall’s interest in geriatrics was driven by the desire to provide collaborative, goal-aligned care to one of the most vulnerable segments of our population. He considers it a privilege to examine every aspect of a person’s life at a macro-level in order to make strategic micro-level decision that improve their health.

“Collaboration is a key aspect of geriatric care. In order to provide goal-aligned care, we need to involve the patient, as well as their care partners, healthcare providers and interprofessional health team members,” he says. “Effective communication including health teachings, advance care planning and goals of care conversations are crucial.”

Dr. Thrall reflects on his role as a geriatrician and how we can empower patients and caregivers to live well as long as possible.

What are some of the unique healthcare needs and challenges that you encounter when providing care to geriatric patients, and how does your role address these needs?

Providing care to older adults presents unique healthcare needs and challenges as our patients are facing frailty, cognitive impairment, falls, polypharmacy and social isolation. To address these challenges, comprehensive assessments are key, as research suggests that they are effective in reducing hospital avoidable admissions, helping individuals stay in their homes and reducing mortality. As a geriatrician, my role is to help people maintain independence and live well as long as possible. This could include recommending evidence-based lifestyle and medication interventions to help patients accomplish their goals.

In what ways do you collaborate with other healthcare professionals to provide care to older adults?  

Geriatric care goes beyond the work done within the hospital setting. We are fortunate in Niagara to have an abundance of community supports and resources for continuous care such as Alzheimer Society of Niagara Region and Community Support Services, Niagara Region, just to name a few. We also have a strong interprofessional team within the health system including our Geriatric Assessment Program, Geriatric Emergency Management team, geriatric pharmacists and the Behavioural Supports Ontario team. These healthcare professionals work together to create goal and value-aligned care plans that address the individual needs of patients.

How do you see the role of geriatric care evolving in the future, and what measures do you believe should be taken to further enhance the care and support available to older adults?  

As the field of geriatric care evolves, we must focus our efforts to improving care upstream with proactive and preventative interventions incorporated earlier on in our lives. This includes focusing on exercise, healthy eating, getting plenty of sleep, becoming a lifelong learner and staying socially engaged. We must advocate for home and community-based care to help older adults stay in their homes for as long as possible and expand education and training for all physicians, equipping them to provide care for our growing older adult population. Practicing geriatrics is a rewarding specialty with so much satisfaction. I hope that new physicians entering the workforce will consider specializing in this field.

To learn more about current physician opportunities at Niagara Health, visit NiagaraHealth.on.ca/Physician-Recruitment or contact [email protected].


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