New UND programs will train family medicine doctors in Hettinger and Williston

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News Article

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Campus Unit

School of Medicine & Health Sciences


GRAND FORKS, N.D.—The University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences will partner with West River Health Services in Hettinger and Mercy Medical Center in Williston in training physicians to practice rural family medicine. The first residents will begin training on July 1.

In order to practice medicine, medical school graduates must hone their clinical skills in a post-graduate training program called a residency. After completing four years of medical school, newly minted MDs must also complete a three-year residency to gain board certification in family medicine. The first year of each residency will be primarily situated at the UND Centers for Family Medicine in Bismarck and Minot; the next two years of the three-year programs will be primarily in Hettinger and Williston.

"Where a doctor completes a residency is a good predictor of where that doctor will practice," said Joshua Wynne, M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H., UND vice president for health affairs and dean of the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences. "As we expand our medical student class sizes, we are fortunate that we simultaneously are able to increase residency slots; otherwise, our students would be destined to do training out of state. But if a UND medical school graduate completes a residency in North Dakota, there is a 2 out of 3 chance that graduate will practice within the state."

"We are excited to be offering the UND residency program in Williston," said Matt Grimshaw, president of Mercy Medical Center. "This will be a significant development for our community. We hope the program will increase the capacity for primary care while providing a very good experience for the residents."

In 2011, the SMHS and its Advisory Council instituted the Health Care Workforce Initiative (HWI), a four-pronged plan to help address North Dakota's health-care workforce needs now and in the future by reducing disease burden, retaining more graduates for practice in North Dakota, training more practitioners, and improving the efficiency of the health-care delivery system. The new rural family medicine training programs in Bismarck and Minot are a direct result of the HWI.

"This program is a natural for medical students with strong leadership qualities looking for intense training opportunities that can be customized to their particular needs and interests," said Jeff Hostetter, M.D., program director for the Bismarck–Hettinger rural training track. "The faculty members are experienced clinicians with years of teaching experience, eager to develop a program specifically designed to graduate family physicians prepared to work in the most rural settings."

Rural communities are very motivated to expand their current commitment to medical education and to make the residents a part of the community. Both programs are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education for one resident trainee per year; both hope to expand to train two residents per year in the near future.

"The Rural Training Track (RTT) is a great opportunity for WRHS and all of rural North Dakota," said Jim Long, CEO and administrator of West River Health Services. "The state needs more primary care physicians to meet the health needs of our rural communities. The RTT not only assists in the education of these medical professionals but also gives medical students a real-life experience of rural medicine. Following such an experience, the physician can then accept what one of our former (retired) physicians described to be 'The best job in the world.'"

The Bismarck and Minot residency programs received strong support through an appropriation from the 2011 North Dakota State Legislature. The new residency programs will build on the longtime core programs in Minot, which was the first residency program in the state, begun in 1975, graduating a total of 160 family physicians, and in Bismarck, which initially enrolled residents in 1976 and has graduated 130 family physicians.

"I am looking forward to enrolling medical school graduates with a strong passion for full-spectrum family medicine," said Kimberly Krohn, M.D., program director for the Minot–Williston program. "The residents in the program will have unlimited opportunities in high volume emergency, obstetrics, and procedural training. The leadership opportunities for the residents in the program will be tremendous."