Mercy announced its partners in the Northwest Arkansas internal medicine residency program will be adding three additional slots this summer, thanks in part to a $750,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation. The money is in addition to a $750,000 grant the Walmart Foundation gave the programs in 2016.
Approval of the additional slots means the program can recruit 11 resident physicians annually, compared with eight annually since the program began in 2016. The three-year residency program, which includes 24 resident physicians, can grow to 33 by 2021 with the added slots.
Mercy said it gained approval from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education for the additional slots. The 11 new residents beginning their programs July 1 will be announced in the coming weeks.
The community internal medicine residency program is a partnership between the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Northwest Regional Campus in Fayetteville, Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas in Rogers and the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks (VA) in Fayetteville. The program is based at UAMS Northwest, and the residents also do clinical rotations at Mercy and the VA Hospital.
“Our internal medicine residency program and our partnerships with Mercy and the VA Hospital are helping us train the next generation of health care leaders for the people of Arkansas, and especially northwest Arkansas,” said Dr. Thomas Schulz, director of the residency program and associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at UAMS Northwest. “These are superb learning environments for our UAMS resident physicians, and adjunct community faculty are vital to the success of this program.”
The residency program is an integral part of what the Department of Veterans Affairs does to care for veterans, said Kelvin L. Parks, medical center director at Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks.
“Most physicians currently practicing have done part of their training at a VA facility, and we are pleased to help a new group of residents learn about the unique nature of caring for America’s veterans,” he said. “I look forward to continuing our partnership with Mercy and UAMS, and ensuring our wonderful state has the best-trained physicians possible.”
Mercy and UAMS Northwest are also partnering to launch a year-long transitional residency that will begin in 2020. Many physician specialties require this transitional year, which offers rounds in different clinical areas to help physicians make an informed decision about their course of training and/or fulfill the requirements of subsequent specialty training to be completed elsewhere.
The residency programs are one piece of the puzzle to addressing the region’s physician shortage, said Dr. Steve Goss, president of Mercy Clinic Northwest Arkansas. Mercy believes the programs are essential to preserving and increasing the quality of health care and correspondingly the area’s quality of life.
“The local residencies are important because doctors tend to start their practices within 50 miles of where they completed their training,” he said. “We don’t look at this over the short term. Decades down the road, these residencies will have reaped great rewards for health care in Northwest Arkansas.”