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IN THE NEWS: Major expansion plans underway for Saint Thomas Health, UT Residency program

Nashville Medical News recently talked with Dr. Jordon Asher, UT Medical School assistant dean of operations with Saint Thomas Health, to talk about the health system's residency partnership expansion plans and future goals. Read more online.

Major Expansion Plans Underway for Saint Thomas Health, UT Residency Program
By: CINDY SANDERS
The partnership between Saint Thomas Health and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center is rapidly growing. Plans are well underway to greatly expand the number of training slots in Middle Tennessee for the state’s future physicians.

Although UT Health Science has had a residency program at Baptist Hospital since 1982, an announcement by the health system and university in April 2012 outlined a plan to ultimately grow the number of medical residents from the current 17 to more than 100 in the coming years with future plans to add up to 50 Fellows to the program, as well. In addition to Baptist, the expanded residency program also will utilize Middle Tennessee Medical Center and Saint Thomas Hospital as home clinical sites.

“UT really plans to have a large presence here in Nashville by partnering with Saint Thomas Health,” said incoming UT Medical School Assistant Dean of Operations Jordan Asher, MD, MS.

Asher, who graduated from medical school and did his training at Vanderbilt, joined Saint Thomas Health as physician network executive seven years ago from private practice. He now serves as the chief medical officer and chief integration officer of MissionPoint Health Partners, in addition to his role with the expanded medical training program. Although he has focused on the residency program since March 2012, Asher noted the work around graduate medical education at Saint Thomas Health goes back to his days as physician network executive when he and colleagues began assessing the feasibility of expanding GME, thinking strategically about partnership options and envisioning the model for increasing the primary care physician pipeline.

Over the next four years, the Internal Medicine program based at Baptist Hospital and Saint Thomas Hospital is anticipated to expand from its current 17 residents to closer to 30. Baptist Hospital will add an OB/GYN track, and Saint Thomas Hospital will serve as home base for a General Surgery program with 15 residents. At MTMC, plans call for an Emergency Medicine program with 24 residents and a Family Medicine program with an additional 15 residents. Program directors are in place for three of the four new training tracks (see box) with the hope of accepting the first physician residents into the new programs starting next July.

“We truly believe to create the healthcare of the future, you have to train the doctors of the future,” Asher said. “The UT/Saint Thomas Health partnership is very interested in training physicians in holistic and reverent care, as well as in population-based models, to remain in the Middle Tennessee community.”

In addition to rotations throughout the Saint Thomas Health network, Asher said residents will have access to other sites affiliated with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. “We’re leveraging the vastness of the UT system,” he noted.

In contemplating the right GME track, he said individuals have to evaluate what type of medicine they wish to practice … community health, academic, research, specialty care … which, in turn, drives the type of residency program chosen.

“Vanderbilt has an incredibly important role in training not only community physicians but also those who have an interest in going into academics and research,” Asher noted. However, with the anticipated increased demand for more primary care practitioners, he said additional training slots are needed. “We’re really trying to fill what we see as a perceived gap in training physicians that will remain in local communities.” 

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Directors of New Joint Residency Program Named

Last month, Saint Thomas Health announced three new directors for the growing medical residency program. Douglas Brown, MD, will serve as residency director of Obstetrics, Christopher Dunlap, MD, will oversee Family Medicine; andMark Reiter, MD, has been named director of the new Emergency Medicine residency program. Tracey Doering, MD, is already in place as program director for the long-established Internal Medicine program at Baptist, and the search is still in process for the final program director to oversee General Surgery.

Brown graduated from the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Birmingham and completed his residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Vanderbilt. The board-certified OB/GYN practices at Heritage Medical Associates.

Dunlap is currently a faculty member of the Family Medicine Residency Program of Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH) and also serves as family medicine clerkship director at Florida State University College of Medicine. A graduate from UT Health Science Center, he completed his residency at TMH. The board-certified family physician previously ran a family practice in Coffee County, Tenn.

Reiter is a board-certified emergency physician with Middle Tennessee Emergency Physicians in Murfreesboro and is the founder and CEO of Emergency Excellence, LLC, an organization dedicated to improving emergency medicine performance. He graduated from Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and holds a master’s degree from Rutgers Business School. Reiter completed his residency in emergency medicine at the University of North Carolina. He currently serves as vice president of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine.

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