Grow Physician Supply

Practicing on the Palouse

Originally written and published by the Inlander, February 6, 2018

Pullman Regional Hospital is aiming to train medical residents in rural family medicine via the Spokane Teaching Health Center, which is a partnership among Washington State University, Providence and the Empire Health Foundation.

Under the partnership, residents will spend their first year in Spokane, and then their second and third years in Pullman, with the first two residents starting full-time training on the Palouse by mid-2020. When all the spots are full, the critical access hospital will have a total of four residents, with two in their second year and two in their third.

"One of the things that becomes critically important for relatively rural communities is maintaining providers," says Dr. Gerald Early, chief medical innovation officer for Pullman Regional. "Being part of a residency program with a rural training track allows young physicians in the process of completing their training to get a taste for what it's like to live in a small community. A number of them will say, 'Hey, this works for me.'"

The Spokane Teaching Health Center has had a similar partnership with Colville since 1986, and almost 85 percent of the doctors who have trained through that program stayed in rural medicine in the immediate area, creating somewhat of a "pipeline" of rural doctors that the Pullman program will aim to replicate.

The Pullman program is part of a larger increase in medical residencies planned in partnership with Holy Family Hospital in Spokane and is currently awaiting accreditation so it can start accepting residents by mid-2019.

Spokane Teaching Health Clinic celebrates grand opening Oct. 17

Members of the Spokane Teaching Health Center (STHC) consortium together with community, state and federal leaders, will celebrate the grand opening of the Spokane Teaching Health Clinic at 624 Front Avenue during a ceremony Monday, Oct. 17, at 4:30 p.m.

The 42,000 square foot Spokane Teaching Health Clinic serves as a training site for new physicians and provides interdisciplinary opportunities for the region’s university students. It provides patients access to medical care and a variety of resources in a supportive, compassionate setting. Located on the campus of Washington State University Health Sciences Spokane, the clinic is operated by Providence Health Care and made possible by the participation of Empire Health Foundation.

Construction of the new clinic was financed by Washington State University and is the result of a unique consortium in 2013 between the WSU Health Sciences Spokane campus, Empire Health Foundation and Providence Health Care. The three entities applied for and were awarded a $900,000 federal Teaching Health Center grant to create new medical residency slots for Eastern Washington. They formed the Spokane Teaching Health Center.

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who will speak at the celebration, joined Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington State in a bipartisan effort last year to extend the funding for medical residents beyond its initial round of grants. As a result of the federal funding, the number of residents has increased by 18 residents in Spokane.

"Bringing more general family practice doctors, OBGYNs, and psychiatrists to Eastern Washington is one of my top priorities,” said Rep. McMorris Rodgers (WA-05). “This is a great chapter for our community and for the future of medical practice in Spokane and Eastern Washington."

The clinic opened August 1 and is expected to have more than the 35,000 patient visits seen at the Providence 5th and Browne clinic which closed this summer. 

Growing medical residency workforce moves to new clinic

Download full press release here.

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.


Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers visits STHC

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers came to tour the new Spokane Teaching Health Clinic, set to begin receiving patients August 1st!  The Congresswoman shared the following on her site: 

I’m always impressed by the work being done at the Spokane Teaching Health Center. Last time I visited, the clinic didn’t have walls up yet! I’ve enjoyed working with their team to get continued funding for the THC program, which means more training for medical residents in our community and increasing access to primary care.

Thank you to Kevin Dudley of WSU Spokane for the photos!

Spokane Teaching Health Center Update

The Spokane Teaching Health Center is slated for a grand opening in September! Thanks to a powerful consortium and collaborative efforts from WSU, Providence, and Empire Health Foundation, the clinic is increasing the number of medical residency slots in Spokane, which will address the critical shortage of Primary Care doctors in our region.  STHC will pair Resident physicians with students and faculty in nursing, pharmacy, physical and occupational therapy, and social work, exposing each team member to the unique competencies of other professionals, training an interprofesssional workforce ready to address complex health issues. This is the wave of the future for both health education and delivery of health care systems.

“This collaboration of health educators has set the standard for how they will work together in the clinic,” Traci Couture told Lorraine Nelson for WSU Spokane Magazine. “I believe they will create a model for inter-professional health-care delivery that will be unique in the country and used by others.”

Traci Couture has served as Operations Director for STHC and has been instrumental in getting us to our grand opening day! It is with mixed emotions that we announce Traci will be taking on a new role at the Office of Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers. Traci worked tirelessly to add 18 new residency spots in Eastern Washington, and worked closely with Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers to add these residents slots. So, we were only a little surprised when she left to serve as the Congresswoman’s new District Director.  We will miss her, but know we have a great advocate to keep increasing the number of Primary Care Residents for our region.