A majority of our nation’s healthcare shortage areas are located in rural regions. As most rural citizens know, recruiting physicians to rural communities is challenging. One effective solution to this challenge is to move physician training programs to those rural areas. When physicians train in a rural setting, they become more comfortable with a rural style of practicing medicine. Data indicate that physicians who complete training in rural areas are more likely to remain in those areas to practice. Approximately 50% of resident physicians will stay within a radius of their residency training program.
“There are many people who contributed to this vital project that will help us grow and retain strong physicians for the people we serve,” said Stephen A. Wolfe, President & CEO of Indian Regional Medical Center (IRMS) in Indiana, PA.
IRMC leadership recognized this trend in 2019 and began the process to develop graduate medical education at IRMC. Graduate medical education (GME), also called residency training, is the term used to describe the specialty-specific training that physicians complete after their four years of undergraduate training and their four years of medical school. IRMC chose to start a family medicine residency due to the flexibility and versatility of family physicians who can provide care for patients from newborns to geriatrics, and even obstetric care. At IRMC you can find family physicians in the outpatient setting, the hospitalist service, the ER, and even in the CMO’s office. Due to this versatility, graduates of the Family Medicine Residency Program can help to fill a wide variety of healthcare shortages in our community. Investment in primary care is foundational to providing healthcare with decreased cost and decreased mortality. Each class of resident physicians will have six members who will remain at IRMC for their three-year residency, so at full complement, IRMC will have 18 family medicine residents training. The first six residents should start July 1, 2022.
The national accreditation agency, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) requires an accreditation process for the hospital/institution followed by an accreditation process for the residency program itself. It was the second accreditation that was just achieved, and IRMC will now begin a national recruiting process. Graduates from medical schools all over the country, and even the world will apply for the six positions available at IRMC. Interview season will end with a national matching process, and IRMC will find out who will be coming to our program in March of 2022.
Directing the process for accreditation is IRMC’s new Graduate Medical Education Department includes Dr. Richard Neff, our Chief Medical Officer (CMO), who will also act as the Designated Institutional Officer (DIO) for the new residency. The next member of the GME Department is family physician and Program Director, Dr. Amanda Vaglia. Dr. Vaglia who currently practices in Clymer, PA, will maintain some clinical responsibilities as she transitions to additional roles of residency supervision and administration. IRMC’s Sports Medicine Family Physician, Dr. Brian Stone, will serve as the Associate Program Director and Osteopathic Director for the new residency program. The final member of the GME department is Ashley McDonald of Nicktown who will serve as the Program Coordinator for the Family Medicine Residency Program. Ashley comes to IRMC with strong experience in undergraduate medical education at WVU prior to moving to Nicktown.
Due to the broad scope of family medicine, resident physicians will be working and training throughout the IRMC system. The outpatient office for the residency will be located at Mahoning Medical Center in Marion Center. The community board at Mahoning Medical Center has been extremely supportive of IRMC’s residency development, and IRMC is remodeling the upper level of the facility to prepare for the first class of new physicians’ to interview and matriculate. The Residency Director of Prenatal Services, Dr. Julie DeRosa, with the resident physicians, will provide prenatal services at her practice at Mahoning Medical Center, in addition to the full range of family medicine patients, newborn to geriatrics.
While preparing for recruitment season, IRMC has been building stronger relationships with regional medical schools and is hosting medical students for clinical rotations. You may see more of these learners at IRMC as well. Additionally, IRMC has been building on the COVID-times collaboration with colleagues at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). Due to the need for scholarly activity for the residents, the GME department will be working with Dr. Hilliary Creely and colleagues at the IUP Research Institute.
Collaborations are also developing with the Food and Nutrition Department at IUP led by Dr. Stephanie Taylor-Davis as well as Dr. David LaPorte from IUP’s Psy-D Program. There are even discussions underway to work with IUP’s Theater Department to work with the residents on empathy training.
This residency development process received support from the IRMC Board of Directors early in the process. IRMC leadership and medical staff have enthusiastically supported this effort to supplement and secure the future of the healthcare system here in Indiana and in the surrounding region.
To learn about the program, click here.