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.


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.

EHF attends Providence Northeast Washington Hunger Coalition Gala

A handful of staff from EHF and our subsidiary Better Health Together attended the 2016 Providence Northeast Washington Hunger Coalition Gala Dinner and Auction Friday night in Colville!  EHF and Providence Board Member Mary Selecky emceed the event, which helps raise funding to support the Hunger Coalition's important work to stabilize emergency food distribution and address the root causes of hunger in Northeast Washington.  Check out the photos below!

EHF is proud to partner with the Hunger Coalition, who received a grant in 2015 to boost the delivery of fresh produce through its hunger relief network.

Thanks to Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers for visiting the Spokane Teaching Health Consortium

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers for visiting the Spokane Teaching Health Consortium last Friday, January 22!  STHC Operations Director Traci Couture and Executive Director Dr. Bob Maudlin took Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers on a tour of the construction site that will house the new University District Health Clinic, which is slated to open in the middle of this year.  Check out the photo gallery below to see the site!

We would also like to take this opportunity to highlight the fantastic partnership that STHC is built upon, and thank Providence and the Washington State University Spokane for being such incredible partners.  Together, we are transforming Eastern Washington into the state's healthiest region!

Live Well, Die Well: Thoughts On The Best Care Possible Through The End Of Life

This post was originally published in the GrantWatch section of Health Affairs Blog, November 5, 2015.

By Erica Hallock, Director of Communications & Government Relations at Empire Health Foundation.

We as a society are reluctant to discuss end-of-life issues—that was the premise of a presentation by Ira Byock, a leading palliative care physician, at an October 29 forum in Spokane, Washington. Byock contends that Americans plan for every life milestone—birthdays, weddings, and graduations—but not for death.

Given this premise, it was quite challenging for the event planning team to anticipate just how many people would show up for a community conversation on a chilly fall evening. Despite a massive marketing effort, we had no idea if Spokane would turn out for a topic we, understandably, would all prefer to avoid. In the end, the 800 chairs set up at the Spokane Convention Center proved insufficient as the community came out in droves for this important conversation!

Each fall, Empire Health Foundation partners with Eastern Washington UniversityProvidence Health Care, and Group Health to bring in a national speaker focused on some aspect of health. (Previous forums have featured health care reform expert T.R. Reid, and last year Dan Buettner shared his research on “Blue Zone” communities where residents tend to live into their 100s.)

This year’s focus on the best care possible through the end of life was a noted shift from the focus in 2014 on longevity. But, as Byock pointed out, he has yet to meet anyone able to overcome mortality. And, based on the number of hands still raised as we went well over the time allotted for questions and answers, this is a topic worth additional exploration in the future.

As director of Providence’s Institute for Human Caring, Byock, in his remarks, touched on a range of important issues, particularly the need to look beyond a strictly medical care focus to include personal care, because death itself is personal, not medical.

As someone whose life work involves communications, I was most struck by his focus on the importance of relationships and communication during the end-of-life stage.

Byock movingly described the importance of “community” and “family” at this end-of-life stage. We live in community and family, and our deaths should in turn include both. We are wired to be social beings.

Additionally, he keenly noted the importance of healing broken or hurt relationships. This is not only important for the person who is dying, but also for the surviving loved one. Byock spoke of the freeing power of four simple phrases: Please forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you. These are simple words conveying forgiveness, love, and gratitude. I plan to use them.

Communication is obviously important among families, but it is really important with what can be a large team of medical professionals caring for a loved one. Byock told forum attendees that most Americans say they would prefer to die at home, yet 70 percent instead pass away in a hospital or nursing home. Byock’s work at the institute is focused on improving communication between medical professionals and patients and their families so that patients can be clear about what kind of care they want through the end of life.

Part of this communication entails medical professionals being trained in not only how to approach these conversations, but also the importance of listening.

I wanted to jump up and applaud when Byock called for the need to improve medical education to better prepare medical professionals for end-of-life issues. It is high time our curricula are brought up to date to ensure that our professionals have the skills to communicate with (and listen to) patients to ensure they get the best care possible. As someone who resides in a region (Eastern Washington),where a new medical school is about to open, I hope we take our opportunity to “get it right” and produce these needed, highly skilled medical professionals.

The four sponsors of this event must now do some follow up. How do we continue these conversations? How can we influence our new medical school to ensure that it includes training on end-of-life care? How can we ensure our region is healthy and able to “live well,” but also to “die well?” This is a timely challenge and one our community is clearly hungry to continue discussing.