Legacy Health has launched a new internal medicine residency program in partnership with Vancouver Clinic that will provide a comprehensive medical education focused on developing highly skilled primary care internists.
“This is an exciting opportunity that plays a big role in the future of health care in Southwest Washington and nationwide,” said Dr. Jennifer LeTourneau, clinical vice president of medical education at Legacy Health.
Twelve residents have been selected for the three-year residency. They began their training on June 20.
Residents will work and learn under the supervision of some 50 attending physicians. They will see patients in the hospital setting at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center and in the outpatient setting at Vancouver Clinic Salmon Creek.
“We’re excited to welcome the best and brightest young internal medical talent to the program,” said Dr. Craig Riley, program director and medical director of medical education at Vancouver Clinic. “In a region growing as fast as Southwest Washington, expanding our primary care provider base with well-trained internists is imperative to caring for the communities we serve.”
How it got started
When LeTourneau joined Legacy Health in 2016, one of her goals was to expand graduate medical education opportunities in Southwest Washington.
“When I talked to the hospitals around the area, Legacy Health Salmon Creek said they were ready to do graduate medical education and that they wanted to train doctors here in Vancouver and expand them,” she said.
Clark County’s population is growing rapidly, and the population is aging, and LeTourneau wanted a program that could address that issue.
“We were thinking: What kind of doctors do we need in Clark County?” she said. “We need more primary care providers, and we wanted to choose internal medicine because internal medicine doctors specialize in adult primary care. Considering that our aging adults are likely to have more chronic illnesses that are more complex, we chose adult internal medicine.”
LeTourneau teamed up with Riley, then the new medical director for primary care at Vancouver Clinic, and the two began doing research around how to build a successful program.
LeTourneau needed more space than was available at Legacy Salmon Creek for a residency program.
“Dr. Riley and I had already started talking because Vancouver Clinic employs so many of the sub-specialists — the cardiologists, the gastroenterologists and other people — who would need to teach the doctors in the residency, and we thought, ‘What if Legacy teamed up with Vancouver Clinic?’ ” she said. “It’s a win-win, because Vancouver Clinic will be able to hire some of these residents who they’ve trained, and so will Legacy Salmon Creek, and we’ll be able to grow these services for the community together.”
It won’t be the first partnership between Legacy Salmon Creek and Vancouver Clinic, which is why the partnership came naturally, Riley said.
“It was an organic partnership that came about as a result of some extensive history that we’ve had,” Riley said. “The Vancouver Clinic has been in this region for almost 85 years now, and it has long been appreciative of and very pleased with the partnership with Legacy. It made a lot of sense for us to continue to partner in this endeavor as well.”
Focus on diversity
On top of emphasizing primary care in the curriculum, LeTourneau and Riley wanted to emphasize diversity, too.
“We were very deliberate and intentional about setting up a primary care-focused residency that was specifically focused on diversity, equity and inclusion,” Riley said.
The first class is an equal mix of men and women and includes people from all over the world. The 12 residents were selected from a pool of more than a thousand applicants.
The focus on diversity is intended to develop a group of physicians who will represent the community, LeTourneau said.
“We need diverse representation to take care of patients who come from diverse backgrounds,” Riley added. “Historically, people don’t think of Oregon and Southwest Washington as being the most diverse population, but that is changing. We need to be considerate of people from different sexual orientations, different gender backgrounds and transgender individuals. We need to be thoughtful about supporting people from different races, different ethnicities and different ages. Those kinds of things are not only showing up in the screening process and the ranking process, they’re also very carefully built into our curriculum.”
The program will accommodate up to 36 residents total: A first year, second year and third year class.
“Everyone has been so welcoming, both inside and outside of the hospital,” said Ozone Gautam, a resident originally from Nepal, shortly after finishing the first week of the residency. “I’m settling in well. It should be a good three years, maybe more.”
Resident Amee Thomas, originally from Saudi Arabia, agreed.
“One thing I really appreciate about the program is their focus on diversity,” she said. “You hear a lot of people talking about it, specifically within the context of residency programs, but not a whole lot of programs here in the Pacific Northwest are actually putting that into practice. To have a program here where one of the main focal points is diversity, I genuinely appreciate that. The more I talk to my co-residents, it’s just amazing how each one of us all have different journeys and different stories to share. I feel like it’s a fantastic group.”
To learn more about the residency program, visit legacyhealth.org/For-Health-Professionals/education-for-health-professionals/graduate-medical-education/residency-programs/salmon-creek-internal-medicine-residency-program.