Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Geriatric Medicine
Associate Scientist, Lawson Health Research Institute
MD, McMaster University
Internal Medicine Residency, University of Western Ontario
Fellowship, McMaster University
MEd, OISE, University of Toronto
The seed of Laura’s career in geriatrics was planted when she was a small girl spending summers at her family’s cottage on the shores of Georgian Bay. Next door to her cottage lived Ms. Baker, a fiercely independent woman in her eighties. She kept up her home, showered outside, summered on her own, and entertained her young neighbor daily. Ms. Baker’s cottage became a place for Laura to go where she could learn about the world, create her own identity, and marvel at the resilience of Ms. Baker to the wiles of aging.
From that formative childhood experience (and many later experiences with older adults during high school, undergraduate university, and medical school at McMaster) Laura grew into a career as a prominent geriatrician and medical education researcher. For Laura, the challenge of medical education is to approach instruction in the medical model from presentation to diagnosis to treatment in a way that recognizes the many possible variations students may encounter over the course of their careers. In geriatric practice especially, students must be prepared to deal with unexpected clinical situations: a patient may present with a symptom that is counterintuitive to their disease, or the presentation could be reported entirely by the patient’s family rather than the patient, or, once identified, the patient may not be equipped to follow a complex drug regimen. The variations are endless. Laura’s concern is that the medical education system develops a system of competencies that attends to these specific and sophisticated medical needs of older adults.
Her current program of research uses innovative qualitative research strategies like analysis of student clinical logs in conjunction with mixed methods studies on clinical practice guidelines. In this way Dr. Diachun is able to accurately assess the types of clinical situations that trainees are exposed to and the relevance of the guidelines which they are presently instructed to follow. By doing this kind of research she hopes to answer the question do students actually learn geriatric competencies in their other rotations? And if not, how do we develop competency criteria for geriatric practice that can be translatable across multi-specialty rotations and interdisciplinary teams?