Athens, Ga. – The Internal Medicine Residency Program, a joint effort of the Georgia Regents University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership and St. Mary’s Health Care System, received accreditation on Jan. 28 in the final step toward becoming Athens’ first medical residency program.
The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education approved 10 internal medicine residents to begin their training at St. Mary’s in July 2015, with plans for the program to grow to 30 residents by 2017. A medical residency is the final phase of a physician’s formal education. Residency training takes place in teaching hospitals, which create programs that allow residents to practice medicine under the supervision and instruction of fully licensed physicians.
“Accreditation by the ACGME is a major milestone in the development of the first medical residency program in Athens. We are excited to be moving forward collaboratively with St. Mary’s to create a high-quality internal medicine residency program,” said Dr. Michelle A. Nuss, campus associate dean for graduate medical education with the Medical Partnership. Nuss also serves as the designated institutional official and interim program director for the internal medicine residency program.
“With this accreditation, St. Mary’s joins an elite group of Georgia hospitals that are committed to teaching the next generation of physicians,” said St. Mary’s President and CEO Don McKenna. “We are very proud of the team that has come together to make this day possible, and look forward to the vital work ahead to attract residents who will go on to practice in the communities we serve.”
“I can’t say enough about how important our partnership with the GRU/UGA Partnership school is to this effort,” said Dr. Bruce F. Middendorf, St. Mary’s chief medical officer and director of the system’s GME program. “Their sponsorship elevates our GME program to the highest levels for excellence. With their sponsorship, and with the eager participation of our medical staff, we look forward to recruiting truly top-notch applicants who will make a difference to health care in our area for decades to come.”
“New GME programs in Athens are complementary to the undergraduate medical education expansion made possible by the investment of the state of Georgia through the board of regents,” said Dr. Barbara Schuster, campus dean of the GRU/UGA Medical Partnership. “Soon, Georgia medical students will have the opportunity to complete residency education in Northeast Georgia.”
A 2008 report commissioned by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia and completed by Tripp Umbach found the state of Georgia should support efforts for the expansion of graduate medical education. According to the report, expanding GME will help to ensure that physicians educated in Georgia will remain in the state to complete their initial residency training. Studies show that more than 70 percent of physicians chose to practice in the state where they complete their residency.
To address the lack of residency positions in Georgia, in fiscal year 2013 Gov. Nathan Deal supported funding for more than 400 new residency positions at hospitals currently without residency programs. The board of regents has overseen the process to distribute these funds to hospitals seeking to start GME programs. St. Mary’s Health Care System was awarded $550,000 in GME funding as part of the governor’s program.
Next, St. Mary’s and the Medical Partnership will begin working to attract residents to the new program. In their final year of medical school, medical students apply for residency positions at teaching hospitals around the nation. The process allows programs to select resident applicants who best meet the needs of the community and the mission and values of the organizations. According to Nuss and Middendorf, program development is on track for St. Mary’s to enter the National Resident Matching Program in the fall of 2014. A website where students can find information about the new internal medicine residency is available at www.stmarysmeded.com.
The ACGME is a private, nonprofit organization that accredits about 9,200 residency programs in 130 specialties and subspecialties that are responsible for educating approximately 109,000 residents. Its mission is to improve health care by assessing and advancing the quality of resident physicians’ education through exemplary accreditation.