Take five with Dr. Thrall

If you see Dr. When Sam Thrall asks what led him to pursue a career as a geriatrician, he will 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 see Dr. When Sam Thrall asks what led him to pursue a career as a geriatrician, he will 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.’s strong desire Thrall’s commitment to serve his community and alleviate suffering began long before he put on his white coat. His passion for caring for the elderly stemmed from a personal bond with his grandparents.

From an early age, he witnessed firsthand the unique opportunities and challenges they faced in healthcare. He became intrigued not only by the challenges, but also by the potential for improved quality of life and functional well-being in the face of medical complexity.

Dr. Thrall received his medical training at McGill University, followed by specialized geriatric training at McMaster University. He eventually 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 the demographics being the third highest in Canada for those aged 85 and older,” he says. “Niagara Health believes in the work of geriatricians and the care of older adults. It was a perfect fit.”

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

“Collaboration is an important aspect of geriatric care. To deliver targeted care, we must engage the patient, their care partners, caregivers and interprofessional health team members,” he says. “Effective communication, including health education, advance care planning and goals of care conversations, are crucial.”

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

What are some of the unique healthcare needs and challenges you face 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 experience frailty, cognitive impairment, falls, polypharmacy, and social isolation. To address these challenges, comprehensive assessments are critical because research shows they are effective in reducing preventable hospitalizations, helping people stay in their homes, and reducing mortality. As a geriatrician, my role is to help people maintain their independence and live well for as long as possible. This may include recommending evidence-based lifestyle and medication interventions to help patients achieve 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 environment. We are fortunate in Niagara to have an abundance of community support and resources for continuing care, such as the Alzheimer Society of Niagara Region and Community Support Services, Niagara Region, to name a few. We also have a strong interprofessional team within the healthcare system, including our Geriatric Assessment Program, Geriatric Emergency Management team, geriatric pharmacists and the Behavioral Supports Ontario team. These healthcare professionals work together to create goal- and value-aligned care plans that meet patients’ individual needs.

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

As the field of geriatric care evolves, we must focus our efforts on improving care upstream, with proactive and preventive interventions incorporated earlier in our lives. This includes an emphasis on exercise, eating healthy, getting enough sleep, lifelong learning, and staying socially engaged. We must advocate for home and community care to help older adults live at home as long as possible and expand education and training for all physicians so they are able to provide care to our growing older adult population. Practicing geriatrics is a rewarding specialty that gives you a lot of satisfaction. I hope that new doctors entering the workforce will consider specializing in this area.

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