Today, many seniors are aging and living with chronic health conditions. Suncoast PACE is an all-inclusive senior care and support program that provides a medical clinic, day center and any necessary in-home support for participants. The program helps participants manage their health, stay physically, mentally and socially active and maintain safe and independent lives in their homes and in the community.
Dr. Burt is board certified in family medicine and holds a Diplomat certification from the American Board of Family Medicine. In this Q&A, he discusses his professional history, caring for seniors’ health at Suncoast PACE and new additions to the Suncoast PACE care team.
1. How did you get started in health care?
I started in health care in the early 90’s. In high school, I got a job working as an orderly and a nursing assistant at a nursing home. I went through training to become certified as a nursing assistant. I got a job at a hospital in Louisiana. I worked on the medical surgical floor and in the ER (emergency room), did nursing assistant and lab work and put in phone calls and doctor’s orders as a ward clerk.
I wasn’t planning to go to college. I was going to do heating, electric, air conditioning or another trade. I thought maybe I should do nursing because I liked all the excitement in the ER. I kept working nights and weekends in the ER and earned my way through college. I had encouragement from doctors to become a doctor. I changed my major to chemistry and went to med school at LSU (Louisiana State University) in Shreveport. Then I did my family medicine residency at the University of Arkansas.
2. Where did you work after schooling?
My first job after residency was at a community health center in Nashville. After that, I worked for a satellite clinic for the Memphis VA (Veteran Affairs) hospital, then another clinic and then in private practice geriatric care for an owner of a clinic. We managed a pool of Medicare patients and helped them keep healthy. He couldn’t keep me because of financial issues, so I took a temp job with a PACE program in New Orleans. I became their interim medical director until they found another one and then I took a job at another community health center. I have family in St. Pete and my wife lived in Florida before, so I applied for the Suncoast PACE position about a year and a half ago.
3. What has your experience been like at Suncoast PACE?
It has been a whirlwind and eye-opening. The folks (team) are friendly and the participants seem happy with the program. We have a very diverse population of participants with all different backgrounds.
4. What is the mission of Suncoast PACE?
The PACE overall goal is to maintain participants’ functionality. It’s not a big rehabilitation program, but it keeps participants going so they can be comfortable and live at home.
5. What health issues do participants experience?
There are a lot of people we see with dementia, memory loss, diabetes, obesity, kidney disease, arthritis, cancer, osteoporosis (weakening in bones), high blood pressure, heart attacks or strokes. We try to prevent falls by helping to get rid of unnecessary medications that can make them drowsy, confused and weak.
6. How do you help participants stay healthy?
When people settle into a sedentary lifestyle it’s bad for their health. I encourage a healthy lifestyle for participants. We want them to eat healthy, keep their bodies and minds active and stay involved in the community. There are lots of activities here, which is definitely good for participants’ social needs. Everyone has social needs, that’s part of our health.
I also like doing skin procedures, such as removing skin cancer and abscesses. We want to prevent people from having to go to the hospital if we can catch something before it gets out of control.
7. Who are the new people coming to work with the care team?
We have a new doc who started in August. We have a nurse practitioner who will be training an ARNP (advanced registered nurse practitioner) student and a doctor of nursing candidate from the USF (University of South Florida) Health College of Nursing. A new Empath Health clinical pharmacist was hired to work in several settings, including Suncoast PACE.
8. How does the care team help support medications management?
I’m working in compliance with the state to review all narcotics. We’re working to evaluate all of our participants’ medications and to de-prescribe inappropriate medications. The clinical pharmacist will help us monitor participants’ conditions and medications.
9. How do you like to spend your free time?
I like hiking, camping, mountain climbing and flying airplanes. I’m working on my pilot’s license – I have 70 hours of flight time and I need to finish it. It’s exciting and a little dangerous, but I like it. My wife and I have a little dog at home that enjoys adventure.
Has your loved one benefited from the care at Suncoast PACE?
Please share your story here.
For more information about the program, visit SuncoastPACE.org or call (727) 289-0062 or (800) 458-2933.