The Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, in collaboration with Miami Valley Hospital, Family Health Services of Darke County and Wayne HealthCare of Greenville, is working to address a shortage of physicians in rural Ohio communities through its newly accredited Rural Family Residency Program.
The residency program’s goal is to train family medicine physicians who will establish medical practices in rural Ohio, where health systems struggle to find enough physicians to meet the needs of their communities.
The Boonshoft School of Medicine recently received approval from the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education to start the Rural Family Medicine Residency Program.
The Wright State Rural Family Medicine Residency is now accepting applications, and it will start its first cohort of three residents in 2023.
The program is supported by a $750,000 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The agency has awarded 59 of these grants since 2019, and Wright State is the only Ohio recipient.
The Rural Family Medicine Residency Program is a 1-2 training program. Residents will spend their first year in the program training in the well-established Wright State Family Medicine Residency in Dayton, usually at Miami Valley Hospital, followed by two years in Greenville, where they will see patients at Wayne HealthCare, Family Health Services of Darke County, and other Greenville community sites
The program will allow physicians to experience living and practicing medicine in rural western Ohio. Greenville was selected as the site for the residency program because of its excellent training facilities and physicians, opportunities for robust interprofessional educational experiences and the need for physicians in Darke County.
Carlos Menendez, M.D., program director for the new residency program, has practiced medicine in Greenville for 36 years.
“The residency program is a wonderful opportunity to share our exceptional rural practice experience with a new generation of physicians,” he said. “The program will also help sustain a robust physician workforce for generations to come.”
Rural residencies are needed to address the shortage of physicians in rural America. While approximately 20% of Americans live in rural communities only about 10% of physicians practice in rural communities. The rural physician workforce is also aging.
The location of residencies plays a critical role in addressing this shortage. Studies have shown that 19% of family medicine physicians practice within five miles of where they completed their residency and 38% practice within 25 miles.
“This is an important aspect as we see our established physicians retire,” Menendez said. “We hope the Wright State Rural Family Medicine Residency Program is able to reinforce with our patients that they can feel confident that their medical needs can be met at Family Health.”
After receiving her medical degree and Master of Public Health from the Boonshoft School of Medicine, Sherry Adkins, M.D., associate program director of the new residency, completed her residency training at a program in rural Ohio.
“It helped define me as a physician. I knew in medical school I wanted to go home to practice, and I knew I learned best in a small setting with close mentor relationships, so I chose a rural residency,” Adkins said. “I have precepted BSOM students for years, and I know there is a demand for more rural training.”
Lori Martensen, director of rural health initiatives at the Boonshoft School of Medicine, said the rural residency fits with other efforts by the School of Medicine to address the shortage of physicians in Ohio, especially in rural western Ohio.
For instance, Wright State medical students who are interested in rural medicine can participate in the Wright Rural Medical Scholars Program, which allows them to complete clinical rotations in rural health systems.
“We are graduating excellent students who want to practice rurally, and now we will have a residency specifically designed for rural practice for these students,” Martensen said. “Eventually, we want the pipeline to start with rural high school students interested in medicine that we will nurture through college, medical school and residency and then see the pipeline end when they enter into practice in a rural community.”