Dr. Alexander Smith is working to improve quality of life and communication for older adults with life limiting illness. After training in Primary Care Internal Medicine and Palliative Medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dr. Smith continued his education in a General Medicine research fellowship and obtained his Masters of Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health. He is concerned about the overwhelming need for palliative care services among the elderly, while older persons are severely underrepresented in both the receipt of palliative care services and in palliative care research. Palliative care is an area of healthcare that focuses on relieving and preventing the suffering of patients. Dr. Smith is committed to understanding the challenges of studying palliative care needs in frail elders with multiple diagnoses. Currently at the University of California San Francisco Geriatrics Division, he is developing interventions to improve care, creating an online compendium of prognostic tools for older adults, and aiming to connect the geriatrics and palliative care communities with his internet blog: www.GeriPal.org .
While Dr. Smith found basic science research fascinating, he did not feel immediately connected to helping people and decided to attend medical school. His medical training allowed him to realize that his scientific and clinical passions are in caring for older people in late life. He has a strong commitment to making his scientific research matter to the public he is serving. In addition to publishing in scientific journals, he is equally dedicated to disseminating his findings using social media. His skills in social media have been captured by larger media outlets, including the New York Times. He believes that he has a responsibility as a physician scientist to provide particular care and attention to the needs of the most vulnerable groups and the least well off. He has made significant efforts to focus on understanding cultural differences in preferences for care among older adults in late life and incorporating diverse perspectives in his research.
Dr. Smith recently delivered a presentation about his work to the NIA Task Force on Minority Aging Research, where he discussed ethnic variation in palliative care. He is a K23 Paul B. Beeson Clinical Scientist Development Award in Aging grantee (AG040772). He has additional research funding support from NINR (NR013347), and the UCSF Older American Independence Center (Claude D. Pepper Center)(AG044281).