Five Questions With: Dr. Peter Hollmann

Dr. Peter Hollman was appointed president of the American Geriatrics Society in late August. Hollmann, who is chief medical officer at Brown Medicine, will lead the 6,000-member national nonprofit through 2022.

A 38-year AGS member, Hollmann has devoted his career to geriatric care in Rhode Island. During his tenure as president, he will continue to care for patients through his own private practice and through Brown Medicine’s Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine.

PBN: What will some of your responsibilities be as the president of the American Geriatrics Society?

HOLLMANN: My role is as a board member and spokesperson. Our organization uses an executive committee and expert committees for our work. We have members and leaders in nursing, pharmacy and other disciplines. That way the right input is obtained. We review position statements from other organizations to be sure they properly include geriatric principles, create statements and guidelines of our own, and advocate for our patients, our clinicians and our students or trainees.

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Two very recent examples include statements to the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] and Medicare about the newly approved drug for Alzheimer’s disease and comments to Medicare about the 2022 program year. For the Alzheimer’s drug, we created professional and public education pieces. For Medicare, we comment on topics such as covering telemedicine, how payment is made in the physician fee schedule and on aspects of the Medicare quality payment program.

PBN: In addition to practicing at Brown Medicine, you are involved in many projects, committees and panels that advocate for older patients. Why is this work important in the field of geriatrics?

HOLLMANN: The care of older adults is greatly impacted by federal programs such as Medicare and regulations related to nursing homes and home care. Older people are heavier users of health care, and we want to do our best to make the system age-friendly. That means we need professionals to learn principles of good geriatrics care. We need to advocate for team-based care that includes all the professions such as medicine, nursing, pharmacy and social work, as well as community supports.

Quality measurement is a large part of the Medicare initiatives, and we need to be sure that the measures reflect good care that respects the individual needs. Good health care does revolve around strong patient clinician relationships, but it also takes an organized and effective system to meet the needs of patients and their families. So AGS and I try to work in these areas.

PBN: You’ve said that over the past year you’ve been working with other members of the American Geriatrics Society on an effort to “eradicate discrimination in health care and research, with an initial focus on the intersection of structural racism and ageism.” Can you explain a little bit about the project?

HOLLMANN: It is a long-term project with multiple goals. Some aspects are internal such as making sure we have diversity on our board and committees and that our journal looks to promote publications that reflect the diversity of our community. We also need to be sure that scientific research includes diverse population in terms of age, gender and race.

We need to support a strong workforce and we work to advocate for the personal care workers in nursing homes and home care. COVID disproportionately affected nursing home residents and staff, and while some of the agony seems in the past, we advocated for ethical treatment, supply of protective equipment and the like. The personal care staff often are unempowered in our society and we support adequate pay, sick leave and other policies. Current shortages make it all too clear how valuable these colleagues are and how respected they should be.

PBN: Have you spent your entire career in geriatrics, and what draws you to this type of medicine?

HOLLMANN: Liking people is what drew me to medicine. It has been incredible to get to know my patients and their families over my career. The children that brought me my first patients are now in their 80s and 90s. Early on I felt it was important to help people deal with illness, as we cannot cure everything. My earliest lesson was that patients are incredibly resilient. It is humbling to learn from my patients and their families. The field focuses on teams and care coordination, things I know are critical. Finally, it was lucky timing to enter the field as it started to become defined as a specialty in the U.S. This presented me the chance to be on the forefront of change and become a leader.

PBN: From your perspective, are there enough geriatricians in Rhode Island to keep up with the state’s older population?

HOLLMANN: No. We would like there to be a lot more geriatricians all across the country, not just in R.I. But the truth is that goal seems too far out of reach. So, our goal as a specialty is to work with others to help them have greater skills in geriatrics care. That includes sharing expertise with other specialties such as emergency medicine.

We have folks in Rhode Island very interested in making the emergency department geriatrics-friendly. We work with hospitals to develop programs such as hospital at home. We co-manage hip fracture patients. We work to have nurses with geriatrics expertise work in primary care practices. Of course, the students and trainees are a major focus as well. We look at our role as advancing science and education and treating the most complex patients.

Elizabeth Graham is a PBN contributing writer.

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