Summit Pacific Medical Center is ready for its first class of new doctors to start the Elma hospital’s residency program in June.
“We’re very excited,” Summit Chief Medical Officer Kenneth Dietrich said. “This is going to be a long-term part of Summit’s way to invest in the community.”
Summit will help new family medicine doctors complete their education with the hopes of retaining some in Grays Harbor County.
“A big part of this, to make this program successful in the future, is community involvement, community interest. Our goal and our hope is that these people will reside in Grays Harbor County during their training, as opposed to in Olympia,” Dietrich said.
In April, Summit received initial approval from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education to begin the three-year program adding two doctors each year.
“The majority of (the residents’ first year) will be spent at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia,” said Laurie Belknap, the hospital’s director of medical education.
She and others are recruiting two recent medical school graduates to enter the residency program, which is in partnership with St. Peter.
Belknap deserves a lot of the credit for bringing this project to this point, Dietrich said. In November, the hospital submitted the curriculum and other information. In January, ACGME officials completed a site review and visit. The current accreditation lasts 18 months, at which point the program could be approved for many years to come.
First-year residents will spend about one day per week seeing patients in Elma.
Doctors will see about four patients per afternoon with a more-experienced doctor acting as a teacher overseeing care. The remaining time for residents mainly will be spent training at St. Peter. In their second year, residents will spend nine months at Summit and its clinics. By the third year, residents are expected to be seeing patients at about the same regularity as more-experienced doctors, with less supervision at Summit.
“It’s tough to accomplish what Laurie and her team has been able to accomplish,” Deitrich said. “So we’re really excited and very proud that Summit has been able to get an accredited program. And we’re thankful for the partnership with Providence St. Peter.”
Challenges remain before the program can be called as success.
“In the recruitment process, we will be introducing a lot of candidates to our community, Belknap said. “And so having the community be aware that we will be having a lot of people coming through looking at Summit, looking at our programs, looking at local businesses, restaurants, housing, day care, schools — any other community organizations to support them and their families — that will be very important.”
And the community is asket to engage in the process beyond seeking care.
“Housing is a huge problem for us in the county. Where will these residents live?,” Dietrich asked. “So trying to work with community partners to develop those locations, integrating those folks into the schools. If we’re able to successfully do that as a community, then they’re much more likely to stay when they’re finished, to reside in Grays Harbor County, to practice in Grays Harbor County. One of our reasons for doing this is we don’t have enough primary care providers.”
Now, Belknap begins recruiting doctors. We’ll find out in March which ones are coming to town.