Mattan Schuchman makes house calls. Yep, the 34-year-old Johns Hopkins physician makes in-home visits with elderly patients as medical director of Johns Hopkins Home-Based Medicine program, also known as JHOME.
But Schuchman, a clinical associate at Hopkins Bayview Medical Center campus, didn’t start his career with that in mind.
Schuchman grew up in Rockville and attended University of Maryland, College Park, and graduated with a degree in biochemistry, after which he went on to University of Maryland Medical School, where he did his residency in internal medicine.
But it wasn’t until he entered a fellowship at Johns Hopkins Hospital in geriatric medicine that his passion for home-based medicine for older adults emerged.
What piqued your interest in geriatric medicine?
I became interested in the way we deliver healthcare and the more systematic issues. And with geriatrics, in addition to specializing in care of older adults, it also tends to have a lens of a broader picture of healthcare issues. I also was really attracted to the kind of people that were in the field and their approach to medicine, which is often more compassionate and with regard to the entire person and their goals of care.
What does JHOME do and for whom?
We see homebound older adults over 65, but our average patient age is about 80. Our typical patients are homebound due to chronic medical conditions such as heart failure, COPD or dementia and it makes it hard for them and their caregivers to bring them to a doctor’s office. So, they were not getting the care they needed and coming into the emergency room to treat conditions that we could adequately treat in the home. That’s the underlying motivation for the house-call program, to bring medical care to folks who need it, but can’t get it. We serve about 215 people currently.
How has it made a difference in people’s lives?
House calls are so special and different from the regular office visit. You learn so much more about the patient, so much more quickly. You develop a lot of trust with them and really meet the family and their caregivers and see what kind of environment they’re living in — and that helps you treat a person better, because you can understand what’s going on in the home.
Some of my patients, when I see them for the first time, they haven’t seen a doctor in many years because it was just too difficult to get out of the house. You’re only getting such a tiny window into someone’s life when they’re walking into your clinic.
How has the program helped people?
I have a patient where the home environment was not conducive to having successful aging with dementia. A social worker was able to get them into a senior apartment building, where they had a lot more socialization and were really able to thrive in that setting. It was amazing to see how their whole health improved once they were in a more supportive setting.
What are your hopes for the program?
I hope to create a world for older adults that is the kind of place that I would want to live in if I reach that age. Part of that is just doing things that make sense for older people, not making them schlep to a doctor’s appointment when it’s such a burden on them and their caregivers. Just being there for patients, it’s really quite rewarding.
How does it relate to your Judaism?
There is a lot of tradition about Judaism and medicine in general, and it is comforting to continue on that tradition. As far as geriatrics in particular, I’m going to expand the commandment of honoring my father and mother to honoring your elders in general.
What do you do for fun?
I like to cycle, and do long road riding. Lately I’ve become very interested in trees and tree identification. Baltimore published a map of all the trees in the whole city and it’s fascinating to look at the map and look at the trees and all the different species, which has been really fun for me. Much to the chagrin of my wife, because it makes me walk very slowly.
Susan C. Ingram is a reporter for the Baltimore Jewish Times, an affiliated publication of Washington Jewish Week.