October 28. 2017 11:47PM

Teaching medical students through personal stories of caring, dying

By GRETCHEN M. GROSKY
New Hampshire Union Leader


 


 


Everyone has a story - and everyone dies.

Researchers at the University of New England are looking for those personal stories of caregiving and dying to build a researchable database for medical students. The goal is to have these stories categorized to help the students understand not just the science behind aging and dying, but the humanity as well, said Dr. Marilyn Gugliucci, director of Geriatrics Education and Research at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine.

"It's a way to honor their lives and teach students from the older adults' perspective," Gugliucci said.

It's called the "The UNE Archive: Global Elders' Perspectives Project" or "UNE A:GE" for short. Gugliucci said too often health professions students learn from reading and textbooks and not from a patient's perspective or lived experience.

The project began with a gift to the school of "boxes of meticulous notes" kept by four Maine sisters who recorded everything about their 90-year-old mother's care - everything from meals to medications.

Gugliucci said it's not unusual for the aging or their loved ones to keep journals of care, whether they be in the form of diaries or video or audio recordings. The project is seeking these journals in any format from anywhere in the world to be included in the searchable database.

Two of Gugliucci's students were able to make an unexpected contribution. They were assigned to spend two days in a hospice center, watching a person in the dying process. They woman they were assigned planned to donate her body to the school after her death, and was "excited" to spend her last few days further teaching students about dying.

"What a wonderful legacy," Gugliucci said. "She was so excited to be giving back, teaching while she was alive and through her death."

For more information on contributing to the project, Gugliucci can be contacted by phone at (207)602-2463 or by e-mail at mgugliucci@une.edu.

Silver Linings is a continuing Union Leader/Sunday News report focusing on the issues of New Hampshire's aging population and seeking out solutions. Union Leader reporter Gretchen Grosky would like to hear from readers about issues related to aging. She can be reached at ggrosky@unionleader.com or (603) 206-7739. See more at www.unionleader.com/aging.