Athens Regional Health System received word this week that the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education approved the hospital to move forward with the creation of residency programs.
The initial accreditation is the first of a two-step accreditation process that allows Athens Regional to accept and teach residency students at the hospital.
“You can’t get the programs accredited until you get the hospital accredited, so this is a major first step for us,” said Dr. Jonathan Murrow, Athens Regional’s head of graduate medical education development. “This accreditation reflects our strength to be able to serve as a learning environment for residents and allows us to go forward in putting together residency programs.
“There’s more work to come, but we’re under way.”
The next step is to hire a director to lead each residency program and create the program’s curriculum, Murrow said.
Also this week, Athens Regional introduced Dr. Catherine Apaloo as the new Internal Medicine Program Director.
Apaloo joins Athens Regional by way of Saint Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, Conn., where she served as associate professor and program director of the Internal Medicine Training Program.
Her position at Athens Regional is similar to the one she left, she said, but the program she ran in Connecticut was an established when she took it over. At Athens Regional she likes the thought of creating a new program.
“The fact that we can start the program from scratch and really do it well and look into the future was really attractive to me,” Apaloo said. “Now, we are working on creating the curriculum and getting the accreditation paperwork ready to accredit the Internal Medicine Program. Once the program is accredited we can start recruiting students for residencies in the fall of 2015.”
Representatives from the hospital said they also plan to welcome Dr. James Pippim as the new Transitional Year Program Director this summer.
The hospital currently is interviewing people to head up the programs of Surgery, OB-GYN and Family Medicine, and are optimistic they will fill the positions this year, Murrow said.
Start-up funds to create the residencies were provided by the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents, which approved funds to create as many as 400 residency positions throughout Georgia in an effort to curb the state’s physician shortage. Research shows that 70 percent of new doctors remain in the area where they served residencies.
ARMC received $600,000 to help start residency programs in Athens, but support for the programs will transition from board of regents funds to funds from Medicare and Athens Regional in the future.
“It’s a shared cost by all of these parties,” Murrow said.
The residency programs are being run by Athens Regional in affiliation with Georgia Regents University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership.
While the hospital’s programs will not be sponsored by the Medical Partnership, Murrow said the two institutions still will work together to create the curriculum for each program and teach residents as well as provide opportunities for residents at ARMC to teach undergraduate medical students during rotations at the hospital. The two also will work together to enhance patient-oriented clinical research in Athens.
“We are looking for ways to further develop how we conduct patient-oriented clinical research, which is a huge part of this endeavour,” Murrow said. “Enhancing research will allow us to enhance the quality of care we deliver at Athens Regional and in the Athens community as well as help us to create an overall academic environment.”
Altogether the five residencies will host 102 residents. Murrow said the hospital still is on track to start training residents in July 2016.
“It’s an exciting time to be in Athens both as a physician and a teacher,” Murrow said. “This is a real point of transition for our community in terms of the nature of medical teaching and learning in Athens and we’re all trying to build something we’ll be proud of.”