Ann Riggs, a geriatrician at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, did what no doctor has ever done in a Times survey: She got the same number of votes for best doctor as a physician so well-known everyone calls him by his name — Dr. David. As in Lipschitz.
Lipschitz was director of UAMS’ Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging from 1995 until earlier this year. In July he moved to St. Vincent Health Center to head up its geriatric services.
Here’s what Lipschitz says about Ann Riggs: “She has one of the most visionary views of what is needed to take care of older people. She’s incredible. She’s one in a million.”
Riggs says Lipschitz has been good for the specialty of geriatrics. With his exception, geriatrics is neither “high paying nor glamorous,” Riggs said. But for her, it is a “perfect fit. … I love internal medicine and I love [treating] cognitive problems and behavioral problems.”
In April, Riggs was recognized by the Arkansas Medical Directors Association for innovative care in the nursing homes whose medical care she directs: Southridge Village Nursing and Rehab Center in Heber Springs, and Golden Living and Lakewood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in North Little Rock.
Those innovations include:
Though geriatrics was “perfect” for Riggs, the field does not attract as many doctors as Riggs and her colleagues would like. The department is discussing ways to make geriatrics “more fun” and is applying for a $2 million grant from Reynolds to improve curriculum, one of 10 Reynolds will award next year.
Riggs believes medicine is making real progress in treating dementia, noting that clinical trials to test a vaccine have begun across the nation. But UAMS’ greater role is to educate doctors — in all specialties — about the special needs of their older patients in hospital settings and elsewhere. UAMS is practically unique in requiring that every third year medical student do a four-week rotation through the department. The students are “real lucky” to have such a program available to them, Riggs said. The department is seeking funding to create a fellowship to otolaryngologists and orthopedic surgeons.
The Minnesota native came to UAMS with her husband, endocrinologist (and big vote getter) Donald Bodenner in 1997 from the University of Rochester.