November 22, 2019 by Tammy Howell
HRSA announced it will provide $5.4 million dollars over the next four years to North Country HealhtCare’s new family medicine residency program.
The funding will allow North Country HealthCare to train four residents beginning this July, and each year thereafter.
By training doctors in northern Arizona, North Country HealthCare aims to help solve the physician shortage in our region, bringing much-needed care to communities that need it most.
North Country HealthCare received notice last week that the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will fund its family medicine residency program, in the amount of $5.4 million over four years, providing vital funds to sustain the residency program. North Country HealthCare’s residency program will begin training four residents in July 2020.
HRSA’s funding will come from their Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) program. HRSA will award North Country HealthCare $150,000 per year for each resident trained. As a three year program, 12 residents will be in the program by 2022, meaning HRSA will provide $1.8 million that year and every year thereafter.
The purpose of the THCGME Program is to support the training of residents in new or expanded primary care residency training programs in community-based outpatient care centers. North Country HealthCare’s residency program will prepare doctors to provide high quality care in rural and underserved communities in northern Arizona, and develop competencies to serve these diverse populations and communities.
This funding opportunity from the THCGME program was extremely competitive; it only allowed funding for up to five new residency programs, since it was mostly targeted at renewing the 56 Teaching Health Center residency programs already up and running throughout the country. North Country HealthCare was one of very few newly funded programs. North Country HealthCare is the first THCGME-funded program in Arizona with a community health center as the accredited sponsoring institution.
This funding will be the “bread and butter” for North Country HealthCare’s residency program, providing ongoing public support for the direct and indirect operational costs of running a residency program. The funds awarded by HRSA will pay for resident salaries, along with clinical faculty and administrative costs.
North Country HealthCare has already begun interviewing potential primary care physician residents who will start their training this summer. Residents will have rotations throughout North Country HealthCare’s service region of Coconino, Mohave, Navajo and Apache Counties. The program will also have required rural rotations in Tuba City, Polacca and Whiteriver, making it the only graduate medical education program in the country with required rotations in Indian Country.
The Physician Shortage is Dire
Right now Arizona needs an additional 605 primary care physicians to address its shortage of health professionals, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. In fact, Arizona is ranked 38th in the nation in the number of primary care providers per 100,000 population. Not having access to a primary care provider makes routine check-ups and ongoing care difficult to obtain, and it has a negative impact on the quality of life of Arizona’s most vulnerable communities.
Access to care is especially dire in Arizona’s rural, frontier and Native American communities, where the population to provider ratio is 3,896:1. HRSA considers an area to be over-utilized if it has a population to provider ratio of 2000:1 or greater.
North Country HealthCare Making a Difference
One of the most impactful ways to increase the number of doctors in an area is to teach and train doctors in the communities of greatest need. Research suggests that physicians are more likely to practice where they train, which highlights the importance of training residents in rural northern Arizona.
“This is why we’re launching our family medicine residency program,” states Anne Newland, MD, MPH, CEO of North Country HealthCare. “We need more primary care physicians in our region of the state, especially in the most isolated rural areas. Northern Arizona’s communities deserve to have access to the highest quality family practice physicians available; in short, we have no choice but to ‘grow our own.’”
Positive Economic Impact
Recently, North Country HealthCare and the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association (AzHHA) commissioned an economic impact study to ascertain how a family medicine residency program would affect the economy and patient access to care. The result of the independent economic-impact study, shows “significant positive economic impact” to the state and expanded patient access to care over the next ten years.
The study, prepared by Rounds Consulting Group, Inc., shows that increasing the number of physician residents at North Country HealthCare alone will result in 136 high-paying jobs and $151.7 million in economic output for northern Arizona over a ten year period.
Community Collaboration is Key
A residency program belongs to the community; it’s an investment in the community’s future. North Country HealthCare has established key partnerships and affiliations throughout northern Arizona. The NARBHA Institute has provided $3 million over five years to support the residency program, and the Arizona legislature recently appropriated $750,000. Affiliated training sites include Flagstaff Medical Center, Hopi Health Care Center, Kingman Regional Medical Center, Little Colorado Medical Center, Tuba City Regional Health Care, Whiteriver Indian Hospital, and Winslow Indian Health Care Center.
For more information about the residency program, visit North Country HealthCare’s Family Medicine Residency website.
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