by Noemi “Mimi” Doohan, MD, PhD
As a physician dedicated to improving the health of individuals and communities, I have spent much of my career putting primary care research into action, spearheading street medicine programs and helping communities build healthcare capacity from within.
In 2015, in response to a nationwide physician shortage that promised to get worse with each passing year, especially in rural areas, I began working with a group of local physicians to explore the possibility of starting a family medicine residency program here in Ukiah in partnership with Adventist Health Ukiah Valley (AHUV) and the University of California, Davis. Studies indicate that more than half of family physicians stay and practice within 100 miles of their family medicine residency programs. We believed that with such a program, we could attract and retain the physicians we so desperately need.
Local backing was swift and generous. Supporters created the non-profit organization Family Medicine Education for Mendocino County (FMEMC) and began fundraising and advocating for the residency program. They sponsored visits to Ukiah by national leaders like Dr. Richard Roberts, past president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. They also began the annual benefit concert Rural Health Rocks (ruralhealthrocks.com) headlining Michael McDonald, raising more than $100,000 for program development, funds matched by Adventist Health.
In the fall of 2016, AHUV received institutional accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) to become an official teaching hospital. A year later, together with UC Davis, we submitted the Family Medicine Residency program application to ACGME, the body that oversees post-medical-school training for physicians. In 2018, the ACGME accredited our residency program.
We received applications from more than 600 medical students and selected 42 to interview for our inaugural first-year residency class. The process for selecting residents involves a computerized ranking system called the Residency Match. On March 15 we will receive our Match list with our first cohort of six residents who will begin their three-year training program in July. We’ll accept six new residents each year, and graduate six board-certified family doctors every year starting in 2022.
Our program is focused on the full scope of rural family medicine. To give our resident physicians a strong urban and academic experience that complements their rural experience, the first year is focused on hospital-based training at UC Davis. This first year offers rotations in adult medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics, emergency medicine and critical care. Then we’ll bring the residents to Mendocino and Lake Counties to complete their training. All three years emphasize behavioral and population health.
Many thought it would be impossible to start a program like this here, yet despite the odds, we are thriving, which is so important for our whole community. This program is for everyone.
Part of the reason we’ve been successful is because of California’s political priorities. Governor Gavin Newsom supports the Song-Brown Healthcare Workforce Training Programs, which includes $33 million per year in funding for primary care residency programs. He also supports Proposition 56, which includes $40 million a year for primary care residency programs. For 2019, we received $800,000 in Song-Brown funding.
Thanks to this visionary funding from the State, Adventist Health, and FMEMC, we can afford the excellent faculty, staff and programs we need to be successful for our community. Our program administrator is Kristin McMenomey. Our program coordinator is Elizabeth Archer. Our associate program director is Dr. Chris Duel, a family medicine hospitalist. Dr. Lynne Coen is in charge of our community medicine curriculum and many other faculty are devoting time and wisdom to creating this program.
Big thanks to the faculty from many specialties and healthcare systems who are transforming this dream of a residency program into a reality, including Drs. Jim Flaherty and Tom Csanadi, pediatrics; Drs. Andy Coren and Ida Harris, family medicine; Drs. Georgina Calderon and Debbie Marks, emergency medicine; Drs. Kimberly Fordham and Karen Crabtree, obstetrics; Dr. Ziad Hanna, general surgery; Dr. Bill Bowen, orthopedics; Dr. David Ploss, cardiology and Dr. Jennifer Kreger, wellness.
We continue to seek additional partners to join in this essential community work as we train the next generation of physicians.