Above: Seasoned adults are helping out medical students at Emory University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). From left, “Modern Health” course instructors Robert Scheel, Claire Castellano, Connie Lo, Hannah Gold, Daquan Daly with Jeffery Alejandro, program manager of OLLI. Photo by Anthony Kelly, OLLI.

First-year medical students at Emory University are bridging the generation gap as teachers in Emory’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) for “seasoned adults,” ages 50-plus.

Through the medical school’s “Community Learning and Social Medicine” class, students are dispatched to a variety of locations they select. Four this year chose OLLI and, joined by a CDC Fellow, they put on a five-week class called “Modern Health: Policy, Medicine, and Science.”

Their topics arose from an initial “town hall” meeting and survey of the OLLI community to learn about the main topics of interest. OLLI Program Manager Jeffery Alejandro said OLLI’s two-year-old partnership with the Emory School of Medicine is all about giving millennials a chance to learn more about a population they may be working with in the near future.

“It’s also an opportunity to have some myths dispelled,” he said, during a recent followup meeting with the five presenters.

One of them, Robert Scheel, 29, kicked off the Modern Health class with a lecture on the societal impact of disease and the allocation of medical research funding. He said he found it challenging to find “a middle ground” among people who have much more life experience than himself.

“It was a different audience than I was used to being around — all different levels, different backgrounds,” Scheel said. “A guy in the front row probably worked for a pharmaceutical company he knew so much. … It was interesting to find a way to teach people who know way more than us.”

A ‘win-win’ for all

Fred Glassman, a recent Atlanta transplant from Los Angeles, was one of 45 students in the class, which ended in March. A former president of the California Collaborative Practice organization, Glassman is also an OLLI instructor who teaches a course in collaborative law.

Fred Glassman
Fred Glassman was one of the students in an Emory University OLLI class taught by first-year medical students. SPECIAL

The Buckhead resident, a senior, didn’t expect first-year med students to have extensive knowledge of their topics but did hope they would have a “particular passion” for them. He says he was pleasantly surprised. He also said the class was a “win-win” for the teachers and their students.

Glassman believes the potential future doctors were inspired to develop personal relationships with their patients. And, he said, “It was a win for the seniors to know that the new generation of medical students has that feeling of relating one-on-one with patients rather than relying solely on computers.”

Hannah Gold, 24, who lectured on mental illness and alternative therapies, said the OLLI students “were able to see a window into the way doctors are being trained these days.

“I think they’re really emphasizing the person,” she said, adding that their med school instruction includes classroom visits from people living with conditions they discuss.

Claire Castellano, 25, who lectured on “Aging Well,” talked about society’s “push and pull” of respect for the elderly but dislike for and fear of the aging process. (Think anti-aging creams.) She made a case for 30 minutes of physical activity each day and presented findings that loneliness increases death risk and that those who feel younger live longer.

Castellano said interacting with seniors made her think of the needs of the whole person, beyond bodily functions that may break down. “I’m learning how much we can always gain from people as well as share with them,” she said.

Connie Lo, 32, is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Fellow among the instructors. She said students in her lecture on health policy “really pushed each other to think about each other’s perspectives.

“They were really engaged and most of them were really well informed about the different issues,” Lo said. “To be able to impart something to them felt really nice.”

Daquan Daly, 24, was a high school biology teacher for two years before going to med school. So he already knew a thing or two about making a lesson plan. Daly focused on the history of medicine with an emphasis on the history of medical experimentation and its implications for medicine today.

He was moved by the realization that many of the people he was addressing had lived through the times and events he was talking about, such as proposals by elected officials to use a contraceptive as a means of population control. “We get to talk to people who have experienced these things on a visceral level,” Daly said.

Wrapping up their meeting, Alejandro said his program’s collaboration with the Emory School of Medicine “has a tremendous value to OLLI.

“Not only does it give [OLLI students] great information related to health and wellness, but … they can feel that they contributed to future medical practices and they gain a greater respect for those who will become their providers.”

School’s in!

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Emory offers a wide variety of educational courses and social programs for adults ages 50-plus in short and long sessions offered year-round.

Current term: OLLI is in its long spring session with classes from April 8 to May 29.

Upcoming terms: Summer short session is June 3 to June 28. Summer long session is July 8 to Aug. 23. Registration begins May 20.

Cost: Long sessions — $45 per class for members; $65 for non-members.

Short sessions — $25 per class for members; $45 for non-members.

Annual membership is $50.

Address: Emory Continuing Education, 6 Executive Park Drive N.E., Suite 100, Atlanta 30329.

Info: olli.emory.edu or 404-727-6000.

Donna Williams Lewis a freelance writer based in Atlanta. She previously worked as an editor and journalist for the Atlanta Journal Constitution.