Calvin Hirsch’s career in geriatrics education started after home visits following medical school and evolved as the healthcare needs of an aging population became more evident.

High-quality geriatric care has never been more important. With an aging population both in the United States and globally, the effective training of a new generation of healthcare providers focused on geriatric care is essential, and it served as the centerpiece of the lengthy career of Dr. Calvin Hirsch, a top doctor, and health care administrator.

For 30 years, Hirsch ran the University of California Davis Geriatrics Clinic where he helped many residents move on with geriatrics fellowships either at the facility or at other prestigious programs focused on caring for older adults.

The growth of geriatric care during Calvin Hirsch’s career

Over the span of 30 years, Dr. Calvin Hirsch saw the number of United States residents aged 65 and above rising from 31.2 million in the 1990 U.S. Census to 40.3 million in 2010. The estimates for the 2020 Census are near 55 million, and the U.S. Census Bureau estimates there will be approximately 77 million senior citizens by the mid-2030s.

At that time, the number of senior citizens is expected to outnumber children, emphasizing the increased importance of geriatric education as practiced by Dr. Calvin Hirsch during his career. The need for services that address the unique approach required by serving older adults will rival pediatric care as the population shifts. Much like early childhood care requires a specialized approach, older adults need health care providers to review their health conditions and provide care adapted to changing bodies and evolving mental health needs.

Geriatric patients are more vulnerable, are more likely to experience a variety of chronic conditions, have impairments, and need the assistance of caregivers in decision-making and health care management. They require a patient-centered and compassionate approach as well as a specific focus on education, internships, and fellowships.

For Dr. Calvin Hirsch, his investment in geriatric care extends from health care education and medical practice to imparting the lessons learned from patients in chapters of two books focused on geriatric topics and various other professional publications. Hirsch also co-edited two books focused on geriatric psychiatry designed to help further the scope of specialized care for older adults.

The transition into this field was a natural progression, but it was not his first choice.

Home visits lead to career transition

After graduating from Yale University, Hirsch attended the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and moved to an internship and residency in internal medicine at Mt. Zion Hospital and Medical Center in San Francisco. Two years of subsequent payback work for the National Health Corps saw Hirsch conduct home visits to impoverished seniors in San Francisco’s well-known tenderloin district.

Providing care to seniors who lived alone and were largely homebound inspired a change in focus. Dr. Calvin Hirsch resigned from a planned fellowship in infectious diseases. He then completed a two-year Robert Wood Johnson fellowship at Stanford and focused on research in geriatric health care policy. The lessons learned here and at a subsequent medical director position in long-term care at the Palo, Alto VA helped form the basis of his career.

After the VA, Hirsch accepted a role in the Division of General Medicine at UC Davis Health and moved from assistant to full professor over his 31.5 years at the university. He served in the UC Davis Geriatrics Clinic until the Geriatrics Clinic was also closed in 2021 as UC Davis Health developed a new Health Aging Clinic as part of a Healthy Aging initiative. Hirsch also retired in 2021.