Family physician residency program expands

July 1, 2011
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Now that the Spectrum Health Family Medicine Research Center has opened on the fifth floor of 25 Michigan St. NE, more primary physicians will receive training in the coming years — up to a third more than the current level.

Spectrum Health, the region’s largest provider, and Grand Rapids Medical Education Partners, which sponsors graduate medical education, combined their efforts to open the center, which is the teaching program’s second site. The first teaching clinic has been operating at Saint Mary’s Health Care.

The Spectrum Health FMRC has board-certified family-medicine physicians on its staff, along with residents, nurses and a social worker.

“Providing opportunities for education and training for future physicians and other health care providers is part of our mission,” said Matt Van Vranken, executive vice president of the Spectrum Health Delivery System. “In addition to creating education opportunities, the center will also expand access to primary care in Grand Rapids.”

GRMEP President and CEO Peter Coggan said the metro area and the state both are facing a shortage of family physicians. “There is going to be a tremendous shortage of family physicians in the whole of the state of Michigan, and in West Michigan, in particular,” he said.

In 2005, a blue ribbon physician work force committee put together by the Michigan Medical Society found that the supply of physicians in the state would rise by 5 percent for every 100,000 residents by 2020, but the demand for physicians would increase by 19 percent. By the year 2020, the report said the state could have up to a 10 percent shortage of family doctors.

“I can tell you that by 2020, the predictions are that West Michigan will be short 900 physicians in total under what the population needs, and the largest group of specialties in that 900 number that we’ll be lacking is primary care. So we know that we have a big shortage of primary care physicians, which exists today and is only going to get worse unless we do something about this,” said Coggan, also associate dean of graduate medical education at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.

“That’s one of the primary reasons we’re expanding the residency training program,” he added.

The opening of the second site marked the end of the residency program’s first phase. The second phase was completed last Friday when the residents began their training in the newest location. “And then the third phase is going to be to recruit the graduates of the program into positions in this community so we can keep them here for their medical practice,” said Coggan.

A $3.5 million grant over five years from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law in March 2010 by President Barack Obama, has provided enough funding for the residencies of 20 new physicians, who will be trained over the next five years. Spectrum Health contributed the capital and staff to establish the newest center, which also will serve as a training ground for nurses, social workers and pharmacists.

The residency training program is a collaboration between Spectrum Health, Saint Mary’s and GRMEP.

“Family medicine focuses on disease prevention as well as the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic medical conditions. When needed, our patients have seamless access to specialists with the Spectrum Health Medical Group,” said Angela Oosterma, medical director of the residency center.

The center accepts most private and commercial health insurances, along with Medicare and Medicaid.

Besides the FMRC, the building houses the Spectrum Health genetic services, health research and internal medicine group. The foundations for Spectrum Health and the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital also are located there.

GRMEP established the family practice residency program, which has a three-year curriculum, in the Peter M. Wege Center for Health and Learning on the Saint Mary’s Health Care campus just east of downtown. John vanSchagen is the program’s director.

“For this particular single program with two teaching clinics, the curriculum remains the same; the program director is the same person for both of those sites. And three years is standard training for family medicine after graduation from medical school, so that is what we are doing,” Coggan said.

“Spectrum Health’s commitment to medical education and their willingness to devote resources to this project promises to ensure that the center is a major resource for training more family physicians and other health professions for this community.”

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