WARNER ROBINS -- In an effort to draw more doctors to Middle Georgia, Houston Healthcare has started a new Family Medicine Residency Program.
The three-year program, which started in July, is designed to provide hands-on training in family medicine to medical graduates with a doctor of osteopathy under the supervision of an attending physician.
For program director Dr. William A. Woolery, the vision is to help develop compassionate, well-trained doctors while addressing a shortage of physicians by drawing them to Middle Georgia.
Woolery said the majority of doctors tend to set up their own medical practice within a 50-mile radius of where they received their residency training.
“We hope we can grow our own physicians,” Woolery said.
Georgia has one of the lowest ratios of physicians per capita in the nation, with 207 doctors for every 100,000 people, according to the 2011 State Physician Data Book from the Association of American Medical College’s Center for Workforce Studies.
Dr. Latoya Jackson and Dr. Jacob Watters, both faculty members, share a similar vision of mentoring while also hoping to enhance their own abilities through training others.
Dr. Alan Jasper, a first-year resident from Chicago, chose the Houston Healthcare residency in part to escape the harsh Illinois winters and to consider whether he may want to practice in a rural Georgia after completing his residency and passing medical boards.
The Warner Robins location offers Jasper a few-hours trip to the north to reach the mountains or to the south to reach beaches. Woolery noted the location is a draw for resident physicians who hail from all over. He noted the Atlanta airport about 90 minutes away offers access to anywhere.
Jasper is among six first-year and three second-year resident physicians in the first class. The residency program eventually will increase to a total of 18 with six residents physicians in each year of the program.
During the program, resident physicians work rotations at the Pavilion Family Medicine Center, Houston Medical Center and offices of participating doctors. About 70 physicians are helping with the program to allow the residents to work alongside them.
Resident physicians are expected to receive training in pediatrics, obstetrics-gynecology, general surgery, ambulatory care, emergency medicine, psychiatry, infectious disease and a host of other medical disciplines.
During the first year of the program, resident physicians work under a medical training permit from the Georgia Composite Medical Board and are directly supervised by an attending physician for the first six months, according to Houston Healthcare’s website.
For example, when Jasper sees a patient at the Pavilion Family Medicine Center, he steps out of the room and confers with the attending physician on the diagnosis and treatment before returning to further discuss the diagnosis and treatment with the patient.
As a resident physician continues in the program, the level of supervision decreases and becomes indirect. However, the attending physician remains ultimately responsible for the patient.
Woolery noted Houston Healthcare’s program is unique within the state with its emphasis on osteopathic medicine only. Osteopathic physicians differ from physicians with a doctor of medicine degree by additional training on the musculoskeletal system with an emphasis on non-invasive manual medicine.
The emphasis of the Houston Healthcare residency program is on the wholistic treatment of generations of patients through all stages of life. The program is affiliated with Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.