Gerontology

Loren G. Lipson

USC School of Medicine

Like most residents fresh out of medical school, Dr. Loren G. Lipson had no intention of practicing geriatric medicine. Not until middle age did the diabetes expert realize his calling and go back to school to study how to treat seniors.

"People are very concerned about aging, but it's not a glamorous field to go into," he said. "Why? You have to deal with their frailties, and your own. Your mortality and morbidity is brought up each time you see them. A lot of people don't want to deal with that, but it's a vitally important service."

Lipson, 55, is chairman of the Leonard Davis School of Medicine at USC, which in 1975 launched the first program in the nation dedicated solely to preparing doctors to work with aging patients. Lipson also oversees the USC Center for Senior Health Care, which conducts research on conditions affecting seniors, and the USC Senior Care Center, which offers senior support programs involving everything from meals to physical therapy.

"Basically, we're trying to provide a comprehensive approach to senior care," Lipson said. "A hot meal may mean more than the diagnosis of a disease I can't do anything about."

After graduating from UCLA Medical School, Lipson began treating diabetics and people with glandular problems, but eventually became fascinated by geriatric medicine.

"I kept doing research with the elderly because every question I asked, we didn't have answers for. It made me very curious," he said. "I had an opportunity to make a mid-career change into geriatric medicine, and I went back to Harvard in 1984."

Dr. David Goldstein, USC's vice chairman of medicine for clinical affairs, says Lipson's mid-career jump to geriatrics was surprising.

"When it first became known that elderly patients should have physicians with a different perspective, Loren latched onto the idea and interrupted his career to go to Harvard," Goldstein says. "He left to develop a new talent. It was shocking for us. He came back speaking a different tongue. Only Loren could do it."

Lipson sees up to 45 patients a day and tries to spend as much time as possible with each one, despite the demands on his schedule.

"I do a tremendous amount of hands-on care," he says. "The wrinkles on the wrinkles of my eyes have wrinkles."

Lipson is also known as an expert in geriatric sexuality and is a popular lecturer in the field. One of his talks is titled, "Sex After 60: An Uplifting Experience."

Lipson says that 20 percent of sexual dysfunction among seniors is psychological and 80 percent is physical. While the popular drug Viagra has restored sexual function for many men, it's only part of Lipson's treatment plan, which also includes counseling for both partners.

"Every case has psychological overtones," he says. "All sorts of things can happen after 40 years of marriage."

Jolie Gorchov

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