By Heidi Dickerson
Developing a Program to bring in New Family Docs
Many local physicians, particularly those who are family practitioners who do everything from taking care of broken bones to treating the flu, delivering babies to aiding the elderly, are aging out of the profession.
Also known as family or primary care physicians, they are in short supply not only in our community in Mendocino County but across the nation. The US Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) predicts a shortage of 24,000 primary care docs by 2020.
Two Leadership Mendocino graduates Darça Nicholson (Class I) and Mary Anne Landis (Class XII) along with Dr. Mimi Doohan, a hospitalist at the Ukiah Valley Medical Center (UVMC), Dr. Charlie Evans, a family physician and the CEO at the Pacific Redwood Medial Group, Dr. Lynne Cohen, a family doctor, and Dr. Andy Coren, another family physician are leading the way to establish a Family Medicine Training Residency at UVMC with outreach to Willits and the coast.
All of these leaders have long histories with Mendocino County and have drafted an easy to comprehend plan that explains the need, defines the criteria, and creates a timeline with a deadline to launch a local residency for new family practitioners by July 2018.
Doohan explains how the program works. When someone graduates from medical school, the next step is to take a three year residency in order to gain real life experience in a hospital or other medical institution. In 2014 the National Residency Match program filled 25,687 positions of which only 3,777 or 14.7 percent were in family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics. The shortage of family docs is true around the country, with rural areas hit the hardest.
“This program will benefit the entire community,” says Dr. Doohan, who knows from experience. She helped set up a family medicine residency in Palm Springs and knows the hoops to go through to bring in community involvement and financial support. “The benefits are big. Patients love knowing their doctor can deal with most of their maladies. The residents who are chosen come from the top of their class and score extremely high in the screening process. They are very high end.”
“Mimi knows the requirements for attracting and training prospective residents, says Nicholson, a practicing heat shock therapist. “She can lead the way an avoid pitfalls during the startup of the Family Medicine Residency Training in our county.”
“We have the perfect mix of medical training that residents are required to complete in residency,” continues Doohan. A few examples include sports medicine and orthopedics at Howard Hospital, global outreach by UVMC in Haiti, County Public Health department programs, working in the emergency rooms, family practice modeling at Baechtel Creek Medical Clinic, interacting with Juvenile Hall detainees, interning in ways to keep the homeless healthier, and working with the aging population of baby boomers.
Prospective graduate residents put in their applications and are screened by a noteworthy panel of medical professionals associated with the University of California at Davis. They visit sites and communities and are interviewed and courted to determine and recruit the residents that are most likely to not only stay for the three year residency but continue practicing in Mendocino County.
“The potential of this program really drew me in,” says Landis. “Learning about the integrity of the program and seeing the energy and professionalism that comes with Mimi, Dr. Lynne Cohen and Charlie, got me excited to be part of something that can make a difference not only in our communities’ medical care, but with the multiplier effects new doctors bring when they settle here.”
Goals of the three year timeline include reaching out to the community and businesses in order to garner strong local support for this residency program with Adventist Health as the institutional sponsor and UC Davis as the academic affiliate. It would be based at UVMC and its affiliated clinics including the Rural Health Clinic and the Mendocino Community Clinic in Ukiah. Given the successful completion of the accreditation by the American College of Graduate Medical Education, the first class of new residents is expected to be on board by the summer of 2018.
Community support is vital, say the organizers. Everyone is invited to a meeting to learn more on Monday, June 8 from 5:00-7:30 pm at Mendocino College hosted by the Mendocino College Foundation. An enthralling guest speaker Dr. Richard Roberts, a rural doc, professor at the University of Wisconsin and President of the American Academy of Family Physicians will share his experiences and support for the family residency program in Mendocino County.
Heidi Dickerson is the director of Leadership Mendocino, a ten month program which creates opportunities to educate and inspire local people who believe in the future of Mendocino County and who are ready to make a difference. Applications for Class XXIII are now available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.