Indiana University School of Medicine - Northwest - Gary, and a growing number of healthcare partners throughout the region, want to see more newly minted doctors starting their careers right here in Northwest Indiana, thereby addressing the physician shortage and increasing the quality of care for patients locally.
One of the keys to doing this is to make graduate medical education available at area hospitals, so that doctors-in-training won’t have to relocate to complete their medical residencies.
Last year, IUSM-NW-G started the conversation by commissioning consultant Tripp Umbach to study the feasibility of developing a residency program here, and brought together partners to begin forming a consortium that will develop the residency programs across the region. A final report is expected to be completed by mid-summer.
At its recent spring meetings, the group discussed involving the IU School of Medicine as a sponsor institution and invited three Indianapolis physicians to discuss the strengths of the IU Residency Program and how their involvement will be advantageous to the developing consortium.
Patrick Bankston, Associate Dean and Director of IUSM–NW-G and Dean of the College of Health and Human Services at IU Northwest, said the partner health care institutions have already proposed a number of residency programs that could be filled by up to 165 residents within a few years. Bankston reported that Tripp Umbach confirmed through its analysis that Northwest Indiana has the patient population, demographics and potential physician faculty to support these residencies.
“The formation of residency programs would complete the medical education continuum for our region, having established the MS 3 and 4 programs five years ago and now establishing residencies, of which currently none are based on our local hospitals, clinics and mental health agencies,” Bankston said. “The long-term goal would be to increase the quality of care in the Region, allowing our patients to seek care here rather than in Chicago, providing a flow of excellent doctors to practice here to help with our physician shortage.”
Bankston said the sheer number of agencies involved with the effort signifies the potential of the residency program here, both in terms of the supply of physicians, the kinds of physicians, the healthcare for our citizens and long-range, solving the physician shortage problem.
“It is entirely possible that the Class of 2019 will be able to apply for residencies in Northwest Indiana.”
The partners are comprised of: The Community Hospital System (Munster Community, St. Catherine Hospital, St. Mary Medical Center); The Methodist Hospitals; Porter Health Care System; and IU Health LaPorte; as well as federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and mental health centers, including: Community Healthnet, Healthlinc; Community Health; Regional Health and Mental Health; Porter-Starke Services; and Edgewater Systems for Balanced Living.
If past growth is any indication of the future of medical education in Northwest Indiana, Bankston certainly can be encouraged by the story of IUSM-NW-G.
“The Northwest campus's medical school was born in 1972 with four students and four faculty members and offering only the first year of medical school at the Gary campus,” he said. “In the 1980s, we moved to offering the second year of medical school with about a dozen faculty members. Now we have the third and fourth years of medical school with 32 students in the entering class. Now it looks like we are moving toward the ability to provide residency training and that will complete the full picture of medical education possibilities in Northwest Indiana.