The Regional Medical Center is seeking to partner with the Orangeburg Family Health Center to create a family medicine residency program.
FHC applied for and received a $750,000 grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services, through the Health Resources and Services Administration, to make the program a reality. A target date for program implementation has not been determined.
“We are still in discussion with them about funding,” RMC President and CEO David Southerland said, “about how the funding will be distributed and what proportion of the funds will go towards hiring a director of the family medicine residency program.
He said there are also funding questions about the cost of paying doctors to serve as mentors or clinical instructors.
The program will be a collaboration between FHC, RMC and Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Spartanburg.
Development of the program began on August 1, 2021.
The Rural Residence Planning and Development Program grant “will give us the opportunity to explore how we can better train and attract more family medicine providers to serve patients in our rural communities,” said the executive director of FHC, Leon A. Brunson Sr..
Research shows that providers who train in rural communities are more likely to stay in those communities to practice medicine, Brunson said.
The program would be a three-year residency that would initially have six doctors in the first class, six in the second, and six in the third class, meaning that after three years there would be 18 doctors in the program.
“After the third year, individuals would graduate,” Southerland said. “Clinical rotations for training would take place here at the hospital.”
Implementing the program is expected to cost more than the HRSA grant of $750,000.
“We would have to calculate the cost,” Southerland said, noting that it would take a program director and at least half a dozen doctors involved in the training. They should be paid.
Southerland said an individual will go to medical school for four years and then at the end of their fourth year they will graduate and become a doctor.
During their fourth year of medical school, the individual may choose a specialty training or residency opportunity. He said there were many specialties, including family medicine.
Southerland said the local residency program would be an option for doctors across the state and for those from out of state to gain experience in Orangeburg.
He said the hospital already has third- and fourth-year students from the Spartanburg Edward Via School of Osteopathic Medicine.
“The family medicine residency program would be an option for these physicians,” Southerland said. “Students at the Medical University of South Carolina or Columbia Medical School could apply for the program.”
Access to residences is a competitive process known as “matching” through the National Resident Matching Program.
Physicians will be interviewed and once the period is over, they will submit a “ranking list” to the NRMP which depends on the residency program they are applying for.
Similarly, residency programs submit a list of their preferred applicants in ranked order to this same service.
“This matching process is happening across the country,” Southerland said.