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Articles / 2013

Community Memorial launch means doctor-training programs will be blocks apart

Ventura County Star
By Tom Kisten

Two blocks from one of the oldest and best known family medicine residency programs in the nation, Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura will launch its own training program for new doctors in July.

The new residency program will be different from the Ventura County Medical Center program that dates to 1928 and became one of the first accredited family medicine training programs 45 years ago. Community Memorial's residency will be a multi-specialty program geared for new doctors starting careers in family medicine, internal medicine and Orthopaedics.

It will be an osteopathic program, meaning the residents will have a D.O. after their name instead of M.D. Osteopathic doctors go through four years of medical school like an M.D. Their training focuses more on the musculoskeletal system and on treating the body as a whole instead of isolating different systems.

The goal of the new residency is to create a feeder pool to offset a growing physician shortage pushed by Obamacare's infusion of newly insured patients and by growing numbers of primary care doctors reaching retirement age. Nearly 31 percent of California's doctors were 60 or older in 2010, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

"We have a mild shortage and that shortage is going to crescendo in time," said Gary Wilde, CEO of Community Memorial Hospital. " ... We want these residents — the best and brightest — to stay here."

The program is affiliated with Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona. Wilde said it is expected to feed more doctors into the community and also into a Community Memorial system that includes two hospitals and 12 clinics.

Wilde said the county program hasn't filled the communitywide need for new doctors, noting many of the residents leave the area after training. Those who stay rarely stray from the county network to private systems.

The three-year residency at Ventura County Medical Center accepts 14 new family practice doctors a year. Over the past six years, 34 of 78 doctors have stayed in Ventura County, according to program officials.

The residency program was established in 1968 as part of the first wave of family medicine programs in the nation. Affiliated with UCLA, it attracts students from medical schools ranging from Harvard to the University of Washington.

Dr. David Araujo, director of the VCMC program, said he was surprised when he heard of Community Memorial's plans. But he also noted that more primary care doctors are needed.

"We don't really see them as competition," Araujo said. "Their goal of training and what they're looking to do with it is different from what we are trying to do with ours."

Araujo said doctors coming out of the county program often want careers working with patients who are blocked from health care by lack of insurance or income. He said the Community Memorial system may be designed to replace doctors in the private system who have been practicing for decades.

"They see those guys retiring," he said. "They think that this is going to be a way to get residents to stay in Ventura."

The cluster of residency programs isn't that unusual and speaks to the need for family doctors, said Callie Langton of the California Academy of Family Physicians.

"We have seen demand skyrocket," she said, citing Obamacare and aging baby boomers who need more care.

Community Memorial officials say they want to work with the county program. They said the need for more residency programs was shown by the flood of people who applied for their new program.

Four family medicine spots drew 100 applicants. Four spots in internal medicine drew 60 people. And 76 people applied in the first 30 hours for two Orthopaedic medicine slots.

The program will accept 10 residents a year — a number likely to be expanded next year when general surgery will be added to the program's specialties. The multiple specialties means that doctors will from the start learn to work collaboratively, said Erin Quinn, administrative director of the residency program.

Dr. Samuel Small, a Ventura orthopedist who first pushed for the Community Memorial residency program, said he has long wanted to launch such a program.

"The atmosphere is academically stimulating," said Small, the hospital's medical education director. "It keeps attending physicians current and on their toes."

And the new doctors often stay in the communities where they train.

"The best way to attract physicians is to attract them early," Small said.