Dr. Celine Si was looking for as much as she could experience as a new Family Medicine resident while still having the structure and supervision of an academic program. She found the right mix in a new position at University Hospital.
“It is really nice that we get both here,” Si said in the Emergency Department at University. She is one of the first Medical College of Georgia Family Medicine program residents to be in one of six slots sponsored by and based at University, which will eventually take her not only through the ED but also the hospital’s Prompt Cares and primary care practices.
It is also a way for MCG and University to ensure that more of those residents stick around to provide primary care in the face of a looming physician shortage.
“The more that we have our residents interface with successful practice environments within our surrounding communities, the more likely they are going to choose places close by to practice, and therefore they will be assets to the primary health care workforce that we desperately need to grow in this community,” said Dr. Joseph Hobbs, chair of the Department of Family Medicine at MCG.
The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates there will be a shortage of anywhere from 40,8oo to 104,900 physicians by 2030, including up to 43,100 in primary care. Georgia had the 12th lowest number of active physicians per capita at 220.9 per 100,000, well below the median 251 per 100,000. It also had the 10th lowest number of active primary care physicians at 77.8 per 100,000, well below the median 90.
On the surface, Richmond County would appear to be doing well in the latest rankings released last month by the Georgia Board for Physician Workforce, which also looked at data from 2015. Richmond County ranks No. 1 in terms of physicians per capita, first in the number of Internal Medicine physicians per person and second in Emergency Medicine, General Surgery and Obstetrics/Gynecology physicians, according to that data. But those numbers are probably inflated by the high number of specialists and physicians working at institutions such as the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center or Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center that are not necessarily serving the general public, said Dr. William Farr, chief medical officer for University.
“I do think there is a shortage of physicians, primarily in primary care, both in Internal Medicine and Family Medicine in towns like this,” he said.
Having them come through University and through the community benefits both, he said.
“We do believe that having exposure to different settings will help us recruit, it will help them understand what we do, and help us understand who would really do well in this setting,” Farr said.
It also helps MCG recruit students to its residency program by being able to offer those community experiences, Hobbs said. The program’s biggest competition for students isn’t really other academic medical centers but large, sophisticated community health systems with residency programs, he said.
“What we are trying to do is to make sure that the residents who choose to stay here likewise have these same sorts of experiences, which increases the likelihood that we’ll be able to keep some of those young people who are drawn to a community experience in our academic programs here in Augusta,” Hobbs said. “We’re extremely grateful to (University) for this participation, which permits us to make our program larger and quite frankly more dynamic.”
It also lets residents see different types of practice environments that they might chose to enter once they complete their residency, he said.
Dr. Danielle McMechan already knew she was interested in a hospital-based practice but within a week of landing at University for a rotation she was asking about working there when she completed her Family Medicine residency this year.
“We saw a lot of unique things over at MCG and that was really interesting but my rotation here that I did was fantastic because it got me back to inpatient medicine, which I love,” said McMechan, who was recently hired as a hospitalist. “I was going to stay if they would keep me.”
Being based at University has a distinct advantage in that residents are not competing with others to get experiences, said Dr. Ziad Ahmadie, the attending physician for pediatric emergency medicine at University.
“If she is working with me, she is the only one,” he said. “She can do anything she wants. The best thing about this rotation is there is no other place where they can get exposed to everything, all of the specialties. They see from minor things, simple lacerations to the common cold, to the most critical things. There is no other rotation where they can get so much experience.”
For Si, the first-year resident, it is exactly what she was looking for.
“I would want to be exposed to as many patients as I could possibly get the chance to (treat), to see a wide variety of cases,” she said.
Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or firstname.lastname@example.org