An Interdisciplinary Approach to Educating Medical Students About Dementia Assessment and Treatment Planning

Fed Pract. 2020 Oct;37(10):466-471. doi: 10.12788/fp.0052.


Background: Many general practitioners consider dementia care beyond their clinical domain and feel that dementia assessment and treatment should be addressed by specialists, such as geriatricians, geriatric psychiatrists, or neurologists. An urgent need exists to educate all medical trainees in dementia care, regardless of their specialization interests.

Observations: We developed a multicomponent, experiential, brief curriculum using team-based learning to expose senior medical students who rotated through the US Department of Veterans Affairs Memory Disorders Clinic at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System in Little Rock to an interdisciplinary assessment of dementia. The curriculum included didactics, clinical experience, and team-based learning. In pre- and postevaluation, students rated their perception of the role of interdisciplinary team members in assessing and managing dementia, their personal abilities to assess cognition, behavioral problems, caregiver burden, and their perception of the impact of behavioral problems on dementia care.

Conclusions: Dementia knowledge gaps were prevalent in this cohort of senior medical students. Providing interdisciplinary geriatric educational experience improved students perception of their ability to assess for dementia and their recognition of the roles of interdisciplinary team members. Plans are in place to continue and expand the program to other complex geriatric syndromes.