Newswise — PHILADELPHIA – Lisa Walke, MD, chief of Geriatric Medicine in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, has been selected for the 2021 Carol Emmott Fellowship class. The fellowship is a signature program of The Carol Emmott Foundation, established in 2016 to address the underrepresentation of women in the highest levels of healthcare leadership and governance.

During the prestigious, 14-month program for 21 exceptional women leaders from across the country, Walke will be paired with a mentor and will implement an impact project of her choosing, designed to accelerate equity within Penn Medicine and beyond.

“In my opinion, Penn is ahead of the curve in having so many women in senior leadership positions,” Walke said. “But I don’t think Penn is representative of what is happening nationally. When we look at women of color, there is even more of a disparity, and so, you need to have programs like this, which will equip women of all different races, ethnicities, and backgrounds with the training to be able to add their voices, to be able to lead, and to be able to improve health and health care in this country overall.”

Walke’s project will aim to expand geriatric medicine expertise within the health system by establishing a virtual consultation service for surgical patients at Pennsylvania Hospital and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Her long-term goal is to address the widening gap between healthcare professionals trained in geriatrics and the number of older adults living in the U.S.

Nationwide there are approximately 3,500 practicing geriatricians and over 52 million adults aged 65 years or older. The number of older adults is expected to grow to 77 million by 2034, which will result in an increase in the number of older hospitalized patients and an exacerbation of the shortage of geriatric services, according to Walke.

“Despite an aging population, the number of geriatricians in the entire United States has not grown substantially,” Walke said. “Many health systems are just starting to realize the specialized skills and experiences that geriatricians are able to offer to older patients. Understanding how decisions are made in my own health system, and being able to implement and assess new models of care will be invaluable for me to be able to take my scholarship in this field to the next level.”

Walke’s passion for improving the care and wellbeing of older adults began during her residency at Montefiore Medical Center. She not only enjoyed the complexity of working with older patients, but also the emphasis on multiple health professionals working together as a cohesive team. Geriatric medicine was a relatively new specialty at the time, and she saw many areas of the field worth investigating.

National efforts have not succeeded in increasing the number of geriatricians, according to Walke, and so healthcare systems are developing innovative approaches to meet the needs of their older adult populations.

For Walke’s Carol Emmott Fellowship impact project, she will focus on older surgical patients, implementing a collaborative care model between Geriatrics and Surgery at Penn Medicine, which will integrate geriatric principles into routine peri- and post-operative processes, demonstrate the higher value to patients, and embark on efforts to replicate the model nationally.

At Pennsylvania Hospital, which currently does not have a Geriatrics service, the consult service will be completely virtual. Consults would be requested through the electronic health record. Then, an offsite geriatrician will review the surgery patient’s chart, obtain additional history from caregivers via telephone, and perform a virtual exam with the use of an iPad on wheels.

At the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, which has a geriatric nurse consultation service but not a geriatric physician on site, the proposed program will provide a mix of virtual and in-person consultation. A geriatric physician would provide the initial virtual consultation in the same manner as at Pennsylvania Hospital. Follow-up assessments will be provided in person by a geriatric nurse practitioner, who will work in tandem with the virtual geriatric physician.

Walke joined Penn Medicine in 2018 as chief of the Division of Geriatrics, which is ranked in the top 20 by U. S. News and World Report. She earned an undergraduate degree from Harvard University, a medical degree from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and a master’s degree in Healthcare Administration from the University of New Haven. She was an Internal Medicine resident at Montefiore Medical Center and a Geriatric Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology fellow at Yale before serving on the Yale faculty from 2003 to 2018. She has served on the Association of Directors of Geriatric Academic Programs Board since 2019 and the American Board of Internal Medicine Geriatric Medicine Board since 2020.