With 30 million more Americans able to now gain access to health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the demand for high-quality primary care physicians will be increasing dramatically. This situation has a significant impact on the region, as Western North Carolina has already surpassed a shortage of over 100 primary care physicians. This shortage is expected to increase over the coming decades. Combined with an aging population, this increasing shortage of physicians will place a tremendous stress on our health care system.
Blue Ridge Community Health Services (BRCHS), Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC), and Pardee Hospital have proactively responded to the need with a collaboration to increase the number of newly graduated doctors entering the family medicine residency in Hendersonville.
Under the Teaching Health Center program, MAHEC will increase the number of residents entering its Hendersonville Family Medicine Residency; and the outpatient clinical site the Hendersonville Family Health Center(HFHC), currently operated by Pardee Hospital, will be assumed by Blue Ridge Community Health Services. Patients at HFHC and BRCHS will experience minimal, if any, changes to their services and a focus on high quality, personalized primary care will continue at both locations.
Geoff Jones, MD, MAHEC's Director of the Family Medicine Residency Program says, "Our mission is to train excellent family physicians for western North Carolina and to improve the overall health of our community. This enhanced collaboration will strengthen our ability to meet this goal through greater access to comprehensive care."Currently the MAHEC/Pardee Hendersonville Family Medicine program has graduated 35 residents since 1999, with 90% of those graduated currently practicing in small towns and/or community health centers. Community health centers are community-based and patient-directed organizations that provide comprehensive, culturally competent, quality primary health care services to medically underserved communities and vulnerable populations.
By utilizing grant dollars made available to MAHEC by the ACA under the "Teaching Health Center" program, the planned collaboration will not only increase the number of family medicine physicians training locally, but will also increase access for patients who struggle with poverty, a lack of health insurance, and other barriers to accessing healthcare. This grant funding is designed to support primary care and dental residents trained in community health center settings. The collaboration will represent the first Teaching Health Center (THC) in Western North Carolina and only the second in the state. THCs provide an optimal training environment for graduate medical education, given their close faculty supervision and the emphasis on patient-centered care.
As the largest community health center in Western North Carolina, serving 20,000 individuals in over eight locations, offering behavioral health, oral health, school health and outreach services, BRCHS will offer residents valuable clinical learning experience.
Shannon Dowler, MD, BRCHS Chief Medical Officer says, "Teaching Health Centers are a unique opportunity to offer training to primary care doctors in the communities that need them the most. Research shows that physicians trained in this environment are more likely to pursue careers treating vulnerable populations in rural and underserved communities, increasing access to health care where it is needed the most."
Physicians completing their training in a community health center environment are more than three times as likely to work in a community health center, and more than twice as likely to work in an underserved area than those not trained in a community health center. This Teaching Health Center will not only increase the number of residents training within the community and increase access to quality care for local patients struggling with poverty, but also significantly increase the supply of quality physicians serving the community for years to come.
BRCHS is a non-profit community health center that has been providing high quality and affordable medical, dental and mental health care as well as promoting health awareness/education for 50 years. Services are conveniently provided in Hendersonville at Blue Ridge Health Center and Hendersonville Family Health Center; in Brevard at Brevard Health Center; and in four Henderson County Public Schools. If you would like more information about BRCHS services, call 692-4289; or visit www.brchs.com and www.facebook.com/BRCHS.
MAHEC provides quality, compassionate healthcare as a foundation for training top physicians, dentists and health professionals for WNC. Established in 1974, MAHEC serves 16-counties and has residency and fellowship programs in Family Medicine, Ob/Gyn, General Dentistry, Geriatric Medicine, and Hospice/Palliative Medicine. MAHEC also provides continuing education for health professionals, health careers training for high school and university students, and quality improvement consulting services for medical practices. MAHEC is "Your Doctor. Your Teacher. Your Advocate." For more information, call 257-4400 or visit www.mahec.net.
Pardee Hospital is a not-for-profit community hospital founded in 1953 and is managed by UNC Health Care. The hospital is licensed for 222 acute care beds. The hospital has several locations separate from the main campus and a comprehensive physician practice network. For more information or to find a physician, call 1-866-790-WELL (9355) or visit www.pardeehospital.org