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New doctor's focus on older population

November 23, 1997

New doctor's focus on older population

By MARLO BARNHART

Staff Writer

As early as high school, Cynthia Kuttner-Sands knew she wanted to be a doctor.

Now the internist-geriatrician, Kuttner-Sands, 33, is set to begin her practice Dec. 1 in Hagerstown with Drs. Newman, Wooster, Kass, Bradford and McCormack at their 11110 Medical Campus Road offices.

A geriatrician specializes in the care of older patients in a family medicine setting.

"As early as 1988, I was involved in work with older patients,'' she said, having worked in nursing homes in her native New York State and nearby New Jersey.

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Her undergraduate degree was from Barnard College with her medical training achieved at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

She solidified her direction toward a geriatric specialty when she did a training stint at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore between 1995-97 that focused her practice on the care of older people.

"I especially like dealing with older patients and their families,'' Kuttner-Sands said.

Dealing with the ailments of the older patient cries out for intense family contact.

The field of geriatrics, the care of older people, has really burgeoned in recent years and will continue to grow as the "baby boomer'' generation moves into middle age and beyond.

There are so many issues involved in the care of the older patient that Kuttner-Sands sees a big part of her work as getting that information to the patient and families.

"We talk about diagnoses, trying to determine whether the patient is depressed or is suffering from dementia,'' Kuttner-Sands said.

Another big challenge is determining where the older patient can best be treated. Staying at home is an option that must be seriously explored to see if it is safe for the patient, she said.

"There are lots of options now between home and nursing home, many more than there used to be,'' Kuttner-Sands said.

Most communities, including Hagerstown, have resources for live-in caretakers, visiting home health care, assisted living residences and day care programs, Kuttner-Sands said.

The new doctor and her husband found their way to Hagerstown through several friends, one of whom is a nurse in Washington County.

Based on information from that nurse friend, Kuttner-Sands applied for a position with the medical team.

"I don't know if they knew they were looking for a geriatrician, but that's what they got,'' she said with a smile.

Husband Richard Sands is in the electronics field in Washington County.

Dispelling the myth that dealing with older patients is depressing, Kuttner-Sands said it's an area of medicine where even a small thing can make a big difference.

"Anything that makes them more comfortable or happier will be attempted,'' Kuttner-Sands said. That might involve cutting back on medication levels or getting someone to a granddaughter's wedding.

"In this field, you don't expect everyone to live,'' Kuttner-Sands said. "You are often there to make their last moments more comfortable.''

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