David Lipschitz had been associated with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences since 1978, so when he announced this summer that he’d be joining the staff of St. Vincent Health Center, jaws dropped.
The “born-again geriatrician,” as he describes himself (he came to UAMS as a hematologist) explained his move this way: He simply wants to “revolutionize health care.”
Yes, he said, it may sound ridiculous and pompous and impossible. “It’s something I might never achieve. But it’s something I wanted to attempt.”
How? By keeping people over 65 out of the hospital. Patients over 65 account for 65 percent of all health care dollars. The over-85 group is the single greatest user of health care as a group. Keeping them healthy is one solution to taking the load off the nation’s struggling health care system.
Why at St. Vincent instead of UAMS? For several reasons: He said he believes private hospitals, as opposed to teaching hospitals, must take care of the “bread and butter” illnesses in the community. UAMS and other academic hospitals are “anxious to to assume roles to take care of the most different, the most unusual.”
Lipschitz helped attract the $28.9 million in Donald W. Reynolds Foundation grants that built the Reynolds Institute on Aging and launched it into the top tier of geriatric departments nationally.
His idea is to “geriatrize” St. Vincent, create a place where older people “can be properly cared for, seamlessly and with dignity.” He believes hospital stays can be shortened if hospitals are attuned to the needs of their older patients. He hopes to see the St. Vincent geriatric clinic — the Longevity Center — grow into a nationally-recognized facility that promotes healthy living along the continuum from middle age to elderly.
Lipschitz, who writes a newspaper column and appears on radio and television, promotes the idea that older people need not shuffle off the scene but should stay active, eat right, live right, laugh, have sex. Do what you have a passion for, he says.
He’s a prime example of what he preaches: Lipschitz is 65, not an age at which most people embark on a new job. “I’m nowhere near my prime,” he declared.