Growing medical residency workforce moves to new clinic

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A new health clinic that will serve as a training site for new physicians and provide interdisciplinary opportunities for the region’s university students opened today, Monday, August 1.

The Spokane Teaching Health Center clinic, located on Washington State University Spokane’s Health Sciences campus, will be operated by Providence Health Care and supported by the consortium of Empire Health Foundation, Providence Health Care and Washington State University Spokane.

Joining in the move are 43 new medical residents who began work at Sacred Heart Medical Center in June, an increase of 10 residents over last year. It’s the third consecutive year of growth, thanks to the efforts of the consortium.

Overall, Spokane now has 99 medical residencies and fellowships, up from 74 just three years ago. Of the increase, 19 residents are training in family and internal medicine and are supported through the consortium while six residents are training in psychiatry and are supported through Providence.

The majority of these new doctors are moving from the Internal Medicine, Family Medicine and Psychiatry Residency clinics in the Fifth and Browne Medical Building to the new 42,000-square-foot Spokane Teaching Health Clinic (STHC), financed and built by WSU on its downtown Spokane campus at 624 E. Front Street.

In addition to growing residency slots, the consortium has a mission of integrating students and faculty from health sciences programs in the region into a team-based clinical environment, which is the future of health care.

Mike Nowling, a member of the Spokane Teaching Health Center Board of Directors, said the clinic will improve regional health and economic vitality. “The growth of residency slots for eastern Washington will be a great step forward. Add interdisciplinary training at the clinic and our community benefits even more.”

The Spokane Teaching Health Center consortium was formed in 2013 when the partners were awarded a $900,000 federal Teaching Health Center grant to create new medical residency slots for eastern Washington. U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell from Washington State joined in a bipartisan effort last year with their colleagues to extend the funding beyond its initial round of grants. This new source of funding medical residencies is significant since traditional Medicare funding for residency positions has been capped for nearly 20 years.

Washington State has an uneven distribution of residency slots, with nearly 1,500 of the state’s 1,600 positions in western Washington. The same is true in the distribution of physicians, with 49 percent practicing in the Seattle area where 29 percent of the population lives.

The maldistribution affects where physicians practice as the two main reasons for choosing to practice in an area are where a physician attended medical school and did his or her residency.