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Missouri University Medical Program Pairs Students, Seniors

COLUMBIA, MO. — A University of Missouri medical school program that pairs first-year medical students with elderly adults in the community aims to reverse stereotypes about age and build empathy among trainee medical professionals.

Nearly 80 elderly adults and more than 70 students are participating in the Senior Teacher Educator Partnership this year, the Columbia Missourian reported. Seniors must be over 65 years old and commit to monthly meet-ups at the medical school. Participants can also attend lectures on different subjects.

“One of the ideas of STEP is that the seniors tell their stories, and so our students learn in that way,” said Michael Hosokawa, senior associate dean for education at the School of Medicine. “On the flip side of that, these seniors learn about where their doctors come from — they learn about what it’s like to be a medical student.”

Med students Alex Oserowsky and Maren Heller were matched with Jack and Terry Meinzenbach, who have been involved in the program since 2010.

Jack Meinzenbach said meeting with the students gives him confidence in their passion and capability.

The meetings also allow seniors to ask medical questions in a less-formal environment than a doctor’s visit.

“It gives you more opportunities to engage in discussions about your health,” Jack Meinzenbach said.

Hosokawa said seniors have different behavioral-social outlooks and process medication differently, which isn’t often taught formally in classes. It’s part of the learning experience in the program, he said.

The program’s future remains uncertain due to budget cuts and changes in funding. Hosokawa said he’s waiting on the state Legislature to determine the financial hit next year.

“As long as I’m in this position, I’m going to try and find the dollars to keep it going,” he said.

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