John Muir has plans on starting a family medicine residency project this summer, which is aiming at treating the underinsured patients in the county. The program was prompted by the long-standing issue of the lack of family medicine physicians across the county.

Family medicine services are considered as amongst the top unmet health care needs throughout the county, resulting in poor health outcomes, including the lack of preventive care among the vulnerable patients in the county, according to hospital officials.

The 3-year program will be located at the 1450 Treat Boulevard, the John Muir’s outpatient facility, which will help in providing a richer channel for more primary care doctors who will be serving the entire county. The family medicine physicians will be treating a range of patients like the children and pregnant women, including the geriatric patients. Family medicine doctors will serve as front-liners who will diagnose and treat diseases before the patients are referred to other specialists or to more intensive treatments.

Doctor Jeremy Fish, the director of the program, said that the primary care deficit in the country is growing, but the program will provide a pipeline for the county to have adequate family doctors over time. Research studies have indicated that almost 50% of those who graduated from such programs stay close to where they trained, Fish added.

The program will offer postgraduate training to medical school graduates, and by July, the first patients will be accepted. The entire program will be in full swing early next year with a fleet of family doctors. They will lay the groundwork so as to begin training new physicians in the specialty, according to hospital officials. There will be 8 medical school students that are physicians-in-training or referred to as “residents” who will be starting on July 2017.

Each year, a similar-sized class will be added, allowing the program to have 24 residents by 2019 who will be working hand-in-hand with John Muir, alongside teaching physicians of the state university. The patients who will be discharged from the emergency departments and hospitals of John Muir and without primary care physicians will become the program’s patients during their follow-up care.

Fish explained that the county, similar to other areas in the nation is facing critical shortage of primary care doctors and family medicine. That need is expected to double by 2030 statewide. Fish added that more efforts are necessary so as to attract graduate students in the medical field like providing them with school debt relief. In most cases, students graduate with $250,000 school debt.

The regional’s residency program direct Doctor Kristin Moeller said the program trains around 40 students each year, and accepts 13 new students annually from almost 750 applications. In spite the enormous number, Moeller said more residency programs are still needed throughout the county.

The director also explained that one-third of graduates have stayed in the county, although the needs are still unmet, emphasizing that the east and west regions of the county are specifically struggling with the lack of family medicine doctors. More doctors are needed, she said, while expressing her high hopes on the program.

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