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Providence and Washington State University announced a partnership to establish eastern Washington’s first pediatric medical residency.
The new residency is made possible thanks to support from the Community Cancer Fund, Premera Blue Cross, Providence Inland Northwest Foundation donors and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. The program promises not only to improve the depth and breadth of overall children’s healthcare in Spokane, but also to foster aspiring physicians from the WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and other medical schools.
“Launching Washington’s first pediatric residency program east of the Cascades is a monumental step towards improving access to healthcare in our state and furthering WSU’s land-grant mission of serving the public good,” said WSU President Kirk Schulz. “As nationwide healthcare demands continue to increase, providing residency training will develop a pipeline of physicians committed to ensuring care for communities on this side of the state and beyond.”
The WSU-sponsored program is a three-year residency. Six residents will be admitted each year for a total of 18 residents once the first three cohorts are filled. Establishing residency programs is a fundamental part of the mission of the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.
“Launching Washington’s first pediatric residency program east of the Cascades is a monumental step towards improving access to healthcare and furthering WSU’s land-grant mission of serving the public good,” Kirk said.
According to Daryll DeWald, executive vice president of WSU Health Sciences, the collective vision of leaders in Spokane and at the state level played a large part in making the new pediatric residency a reality. DeWald credited WSU, too, for its standout, steadfast partnership in bringing about the new program.
Residents will receive comprehensive training in both pediatric specialties and foundational experiences, as well as sessions in community pediatrics, child advocacy, adolescent medicine, developmental-behavioral pediatrics and mental health to prepare them for practice in general pediatrics. Training will occur primarily at Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital with several outpatient experiences at pediatric clinics in the community.
Recruitment for the inaugural class will begin later this year with the first residents expected to begin their training in summer 2024.
“Meeting children’s healthcare needs is our priority across Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital and our pediatric clinics, so we are immensely proud to launch our first pediatric residency here in Spokane,” said Susan Stacey, chief executive of Providence Inland Northwest Washington. “We are beyond grateful for the partnership with the WSU College of Medicine and the extraordinary generosity of donors to help realize this dream. Kids in need deserve our very best, and this residency program helps us continue to be there for the children in this community.”
Also known as graduate medical education, “residency” is the three- to seven-year phase of medical education following graduation from medical school that prepares physicians for independent practice in a medical specialty, such as pediatrics. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, about 41% of new physicians practice in Washington if they attended medical school here. That number increases to 70% when they complete both their medical education and their residency in Washington.
“We are deeply committed to expanding medical education and improving healthcare quality and access in communities across Washington,” said Dr. Jim Record, interim dean of the WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. “A critical part of our commitment is creating residencies in our communities to increase the chance that medical students will remain here in Washington to practice medicine.”
According to 2018 Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education data, there are 168 training programs in the state, with 78 of those accredited as specialty residencies and 90 accredited as sub-specialty fellowship training programs. Nationally, there is an average of 37.8 GME trainees per 100,000 population, while in the state of Washington, the average is 27.1 trainees per 100,000 population. This places the state just below middle of the pack with a ranking of 28th out of the 50 states for trainees per 100,000 population.
However, when examining the distribution of these programs and trainees, there is a significant disparity in eastern and central Washington. Of the 168 training programs, 158 (94%) are located west of the Cascades, while just 10 of the programs are located east of the Cascades. This results in approximately 32.7 trainees per 100,000 population west of the Cascades and just 8.6 trainees per 100,000 population east of the Cascades. This program is a step in the right direction to address that disparity.
“At Community Cancer Fund, we seek out community investments and partnerships that are local, innovative and collaborative,” said Jon Neill, executive director of the Community Cancer Fund. “For our organization, the investment with WSU and Providence checks all of those boxes. A core part of our mission is to bring the very best healthcare to local cancer patients and to ensure that this same treatment is accessible. Launching a pediatric residency program in Spokane changes the health ecosystem and allows us to take a giant and dynamic step forward to help Pacific Northwest families gain access to world-class healthcare providers in Spokane — including children battling cancer.”
The investment from Premera represents the continuation of a grant awarded to the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine in 2019. It includes support for the new family medicine residency program at Pullman Regional Hospital and new sites for graduate medical residency programs in eastern Washington. This partnership with the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine is part of Premera’s initiative to improve access to care in rural areas by developing the workforce pipeline.
“With the growing disparity between urban and rural healthcare access, it’s more important than ever to build programs like this residency that will close the gap,” said David Condon, vice president at Premera Blue Cross overseeing the eastern Washington market. “Washington State University and Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital are two strong pillars in eastern Washington, both known for their commitment to deliver better healthcare, and we are proud to support this new pediatric residency program that will improve the health of our communities for years to come.”
“As a pediatrician with Providence, I’ve seen firsthand the significant need we have for more pediatricians and pediatric specialties across eastern Washington,” said Dr. Christian Rocholl, pediatric emergency medicine physician at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Rocholl, a pediatric emergency medicine physician for more than 20 years including the past 18 years at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, will serve as the program director leading operations, recruitment and education for the residency program. Along with a collective of pediatricians in the region, he was instrumental in helping bring the new residency to fruition.
“As a pediatrician with Providence, I’ve seen firsthand the significant need we have for more pediatricians and pediatric specialties across eastern Washington,” said Dr. Rocholl. “I am thrilled to see this residency program come to fruition, and look forward to leading and training the next generation of pediatricians who will serve our community’s children for years to come.”