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More than a third of the physician workforce is older than 60 years, and 10% are older than 70 years. Cognitive abilities may decline with age but how cognition affects clinical practice is unknown. It is also not clear how clinicians’ cognitive ability can be measured and acted upon when diminished without committing age discrimination. Two major academic hospitals launched programs to test cognitive abilities in older physicians applying for renewal of their medical staff privileges. It went well for one and not well for the other hospital. Yet, in the hospital where the testing program was carried out, several clinicians who were not suspected of having any problems had profoundly affected cognition. Leo Cooney, MD, from Yale-New Haven Medical Center, and Anne Weinacker, MD, from Stanford Health Care, discuss their experiences in dealing with these difficult issues.
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