How Emanate Health's residency program aims to address the physician shortage

For anyone in the healthcare industry, knowledge about the shortage of physicians isn't a surprise. For years, healthcare professionals across the nation have been waving the flag and advocating for investments in the physician workforce in order to meet the growing demands of patient volume and quality care. It's up to regional health systems to develop and maintain residency programs to help combat this shortage. Our mission as a regional health system is to prevent this massive scale conundrum from impacting the care we provide by making a commitment to talent and retention.

According to a 2019 update report by the Association of American Medical Colleges, it is now projected there will be a total physician shortfall of between 46,900 and 121,900 physicians by 2031. The shortage of physicians is attributed to the U.S. population reaching an all-time high, the declining health of baby boomers, the increasing rate of physicians retiring and increases in the cost of entering the physician profession and conducting business.

With physician relationships and integration a pillar of the organization's philosophy, Emanate Health has taken this to a new level and applied it to investing in the development of an innovative family medicine residency program to encourage residents to learn, collaborate and change the way the organization looks at family medicine. Since receiving its accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education in 2016, the residency program has added 10 new physicians a year for the last three years for a total of 30 residents. In fact, Emanate Health will graduate its first class of third-year residents this spring.

Additionally, residents selected for the program reflect the diverse ethnic makeup of the communities the healthcare system serves, which includes a wide range of Latino and Asian populations. The organization also firmly believes that offering a robust didactic curriculum in cultural-competency and diversity should be an integral part of the training of future physicians. Residency programs whose surrounding communities are diverse are best equipped to provide practical educational experiences in the service of multicultural and multilingual patients to create a stronger trust with diverse patients.

By building its own residency program and creating a dynamic learning environment for residents, Emanate Health developed an official affiliation with the Los Angeles-based Keck School of Medicine of USC and the Department of Family Medicine. This partnership elevates the status of the program at the regional level and it creates a pipeline for more residents studying in the region to serve locally.

The affiliation gives students access to learning experiences through rotations in the residency program. The rotations take place at Emanate Health's Queen of the Valley Hospital in West Covina, Calif., and at the East Valley Community Health Center, a separate Federally Qualified Health Center serving high needs communities and the uninsured. The partnership also allows select Emanate Health physicians to have academic faculty appointments with USC's Department of Family Medicine.

To help attract and retain physicians that live in the communities the system serves, Emanate Health encourages resident engagement and participation in hospital committees and quality improvement efforts. Residents spend time with Emanate Health physicians and the department of Process Excellence to learn the methodology behind patient safety. Residents receive training in the LEAN methodology and are required to complete a patient safety project. Also, during their third year of residency, residents spend a month in a rotation to gain experience working with different types of outpatient clinical practices. The three-year residency experience also includes continuity practices at the East Valley Community Health Center FQHC clinic, as well as outpatient training in pediatric, women's health, surgical and other specialty practices. After residency, some of the residents are retained to work for Emanate Health, others will practice at the FQHC center while the remaining residents pursue job opportunities caring for underserved patients in other areas.

While this approach addresses an immediate need with new physician residents, Emanate Health also recognizes that more needs to be done long-term with local youth to be a source of inspiration for the next generation of medical professionals. To that end, Emanate Health is working with the Gifted and Talented Education Programs in local school districts throughout the San Gabriel Valley in eastern Los Angeles County to create opportunities for students to participate in mock medical activities with hospital staff. Creating these types of aspirational experiences helps create a pathway for our residents of tomorrow.

Emanate Health wholeheartedly believes that investing in the ongoing development of an innovative family medicine residency program is a sound business decision and one that strengthens the organization. It creates an environment in which physicians can establish a long-term bond with the communities they serve. This approach is already paying big dividends as community and staff feedback about the residents' interactions and connectedness to community members is exceptional.

Maili Velez-Dalla Tor, MD, is the director of the Emanate Health Family Medicine Residency Program. Emanate Health is a nonprofit healthcare provider serving the 1 million residents of the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California. For additional information, visit https://www.emanatehealth.org/.

 

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