There’s a shortage of local rural doctors. WSU program aims to help.

A Greenville residency program for new doctors is aimed at getting more family medicine practitioners to set up practice in rural areas.

Many rural communities in the U.S. have struggled with primary care shortages and gaps left by retiring physicians, leaving some patients to either have to travel, have waits or forgo care.

ExploreWright-Patt COVID-19 'Epi Lab’ makes history

Darke County is federally designated as a “Health Professionals Shortage Area” for primary care and mental health, and a medically underserved area.

The goal of the new Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine residency program is to train family medicine physicians who will go on to establish their medical practice in rural Ohio, where health systems struggle to find enough physicians to meet their communities' needs.

The program will be located at Family Health Services of Darke County, where residents will see patients. Residents will complete hospital rotations at Wayne HealthCare in Greenville.

Dr. Carlos Menendez, medical director at Family Health Services of Darke County, who will serve as the residency program’s director, said the new clinicians will be getting an invaluable exposure to a rural practice.

“They will see the different problems a rural patient population experiences, with illnesses and injuries related to farm life and rural living. We have a well-established practice, so their patient load will be stable and ensure continuity of care,” Menedez said.

Also, he said the community will benefit from the influx of these professionals and their families.

ExplorePHOTOS: One last look inside Hara Arena before it is demolished

“They will be dining, shopping, and spending time enjoying our arts venues, parks and recreational activities. Ultimately, we hope some will choose to stay to continue their professional careers,” he said. "We can’t wait to begin the new chapter of our teaching experience.”

The first year of training at the new residency program will be a 1+2 training program, at an urban medical facility, and the last two years at a rural facility.

Nationally, graduates of 1+2 programs go on to practice medicine in a rural community at a rate of two-to-three times that of graduates of non-rural programs, leading rural medicine experts to believe it is the most successful model for growing the rural physician workforce.

“The 1+2 model gives residents the best of both worlds; they have rotations in the first year that are more robust in urban areas, such as inpatient pediatrics, while still completing the majority of their training in a rural community," said Lori Martensen, director of the Wright Rural Medical Scholars program. Martensen and Dr. Peter Reynolds, director of Wright State’s family medicine residency program, are co-directors of the grant.

For the Boonshoft program, the first year will be in Dayton with other residents in Boonshoft’s Family Medicine Residency Program, and years two and three will be in Greenville, according to Martensen.

This builds on the Boonshoft School of Medicine’s ongoing efforts to bolster rural health care.

Medical students already get exposure to rural care through the Wright State Rural Scholars program. Now graduates accepted in the residency program can stay on that interest track and start their careers as doctors with a rural focus.

The program will launch with the help of a $750,000 Health Resources and Services Administration grant awarded to Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. The program will be a collaboration between the medical school and Family Health Services of Darke County, Wayne HealthCare, Premier Health.

About the Author