Debility is not ‘normal aging’
Wail Alsafi ’23, M.D., volunteers with The Wright Center for Patient & Community Engagement to pack bags of healthy food for distribution to those in need in the regional community.
Geriatrics fellow appreciates the individuality of elder care
rowing up in Sudan, Wail Alsafi ’23, M.D., lived with his mother and grandparents. He was exposed to the everyday challenges of aging in his home environment. His grandfather suffered from heart disease and, although she was never diagnosed with a specific ailment, his grandmother had a range of discomforts commonly chalked up to “aging.”
“I could see there was a fine line between disease and getting old,” Dr. Alsafi says. “So many things my grandmother experienced taught me very well that irrespective of a patient’s age, the best guide to assessment and management are the clinical circumstances and patient’s preference.
Dr. Alsafi’s interest in elder care led him to The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education, where he is among the first to complete the Geriatrics Fellowship, which launched in 2020.
Immersed in the tenets of working in an age-friendly health system and under the tutelage of Edward Dzielak, D.O., the fellowship founder, Dr. Alsafi has flourished. “It’s been a great experience,” he acknowledges. “It’s a totally different way of looking at care for older people. You learn to tailor care to specific needs. You learn that you can’t rely on a number or an age. You have to look at the person and their quality of life and consider their comorbidities individually.”
Dr. Alsafi noted that geriatrics is not a universal subset of internal medicine. “In Sudan, there isn’t anything like a geriatrics subspecialty,” he says. “Even in the U.S., it’s new. Dr. Dzielak helped pioneer it. He came out of retirement to do it. I like how he looks at the program – he can teach everything – and how he looks at care for older adults.”
Wail Alsafi ’23, M.D., right, reviews information with his mentor, Edward Dzielak, D.O., the fellowship founder and program director of the Geriatrics Fellowship, at The Wright Center for Community Health Mid Valley practice.
‘For me, it’s all about community and family. I got that at The Wright Center, and I know the experience will guide me in my future care for patients.’Wail Alsafi ’23, M.D. Geriatrics Fellowship alumnus
In a slight inversion of the typical graduate medical education pathway, Dr. Alsafi is now going from fellowship training at The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education to an internal medicine residency program at Howard University in Washington, D.C. There, he plans to continue to apply the lessons he learned from Dr. Dzielak.
“I was never confused about what I wanted to do,” he says. “To me, being a good doctor is the best thing you can be. I am happy when I can help. For me, it’s all about community and family. I got that at The Wright Center, and I know the experience will guide me in my future care for patients.”