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Six More Med School Grads Now Training in Spokane

When medical students graduate, they must complete at least three years of a physician training program, called a residency. Historically, there are not many residency slots in Spokane, but a health consortium is trying to change that. Through their effort, six new residents began their training this month.

Last year, the Spokane Teaching Health Center consortium applied for, and was awarded, funding for six new medical residencies. The 900-thousand dollar grant will fund their first year. The residencies, three in internal medicine and three in family medicine, are the first new slots in several years.

WSU Spokane, Empire Health Foundation, and Providence Health Care make up the consortium. WSU Spokane Chancellor Lisa Brown says Spokane has a critical shortage of residencies.

Brown: “A physician is more likely to practice where he or she does a residency. And so this will help recruit and retain doctors in our community, especially at a time when we have physician shortages.”

Brown says the number of medical residencies in Spokane is now 80, compared to 1,500 in western Washington. The funding came from new grants available through the Affordable Care Act. Empire Health Foundation President Antony Chiang says they also expect the second year to get funding, but the third year is up in the air. If needed, he says the foundation will financially fill that gap.

Chiang: “So we’ll be supporting the direct cost of these physicians in training for their third year, because we don’t want to pull the rug out from underneath them, after they’ve committed to do their training here in the community.”

But if federal funding is available, the consortium plans to add even more residency positions. Chancellor Brown says they would add about six new slots over the next five years.

Copyright 2014 Spokane Public Radio

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