“If you’re not in the continual planning phase, if you’re not creating your own doctors, you won’t be prepared,” says Amy Carrasco, the director of graduate medical education at Kadlec Regional Medical Center. “We’re hoping to feed the southeast corner of Washington state.”
With the help of the UW School of Medicine’s Family Medicine Residency Network, Kadlec, located in Richland, Wash., just developed a family medicine residency: they’re accepting their first applications this fall. The impetus behind the new program? Carrasco is well aware that many baby boom physicians in Washington — and all over the country — are going to retire fairly soon. Which means even fewer physicians for rural areas, like the ones around Richland.
Suzanne Allen, M.D., vice dean for regional affairs, says UW Medicine has been making “a very concerted effort to increase the number of residency programs.” Her reasoning is the same as Carrasco’s: a looming shortage of physicians. Increasing the number of seats in medical schools isn’t enough; the number of residency slots — training spaces around the country where newly minted physicians learn their chosen specialties — are the other half of the equation. By 2017, Allen says, we’ll have more graduating medical students than first-year residency positions.
This is why Allen and her colleagues are looking for partners like Kadlec to train residents; since 2010, the UW School of Medicine has had two GME summits to encourage hospitals and clinics to become residency sites. The results are good: a family medicine residency at Kadlec, a psychiatry residency in Spokane and new programs in Puyallup and Tacoma. There also are new programs in Montana, Idaho and Alaska.
What’s the benefit to the community? It’s likely that residents will stick around. “If you look at national data, you’re much more likely to stay within a 100-mile radius of your residency,” says Allen.
This is what Richland-area physicians are counting on. It also explains some of their enthusiasm to join the program and teach. “Physicians from all specialties were calling me and saying ‘I want to be involved,’” says Carrasco.
One of these physicians, Erick Isaacson, M.D. ’78, FAAFP, shares in all the excitement; in fact, he’s the residency’s new director. What’s more, he’s not only an alumnus of the UW School of Medicine, but also of Kadlec: he was born at the medical center some 60 years ago.
“The need in our region for primary care — WWAMI in general, southeast Washington in particular — exceeds our current GME resources,” says Isaacson, a family medicine physician. “I’ve been a physician for more than 33 years, and developing this residency and teaching seems to be the perfect thing to do next.”