Cunningham pursues med school role

January 4, 2011
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Dr. William Cunningham may be leaving Metro Health, but he’s not going anywhere.

The former executive vice president and chief medical officer is keeping an office at the Wyoming hospital as he takes on a new job as assistant dean and visiting professor at the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine.

“I’ll still have a part-time office here. It isn’t like goodbye,” said Cunningham, who has been CMO since 1995. He will continue as a consultant to Metro Health.

Cunningham’s new duties will be to promote West Michigan residency placements for MSUCOM graduates.

The number of medical school graduates is increasing as universities attempt to fill an anticipated shortage of physicians, Cunningham said.

“But the number of residency spots, in our profession and in allopathic as well, have stayed just the same,” he said.

“So you have this increasing number of residents coming out for a fixed number of opportunities. What I need to do is educate our residents and our graduates on those opportunities. I will be working with the hospitals and physicians in West Michigan to make sure those opportunities still exist.”

He said there have been some rumblings about adding primary care residencies to encourage new doctors into a type of practice that is expected to be in more demand as health care reform adds more people with insurance.

But, faced with med school loans that easily rival a mortgage,  graduates are often tempted by specialties, he said.

“When you look at the demographics of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, we keep over 90 percent of our graduates in the state of Michigan, and over half go into primary care residencies.”

While Metro Health conducts a national search for Cunningham’s replacement, it has hired Dr. Yisrael M. Safeek of Kentucky, an anesthesiologist and a health care consultant who has worked in Tennessee, Kentucky and Texas, to serve as interim CMO.

Safeek, president and CEO of Integrity Physician Solutions, said he plans to leverage his experience in quality and patient safety for Pennant Health Alliance, a hospital and physician support services network formed last fall by Metro Health, the University of Michigan Health Service and Trinity Health, which owns Saint Mary’s Health Care in Grand Rapids.

“What attracted me to Metro was Pennant,” Safeek said. “This is one of the areas where I think I can really help them.”

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