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Residency program focuses on training doctors for rural life

The process of becoming a doctor is a long, prolonged affair, and often times includes four years of medical school, plus an additional one or two years of post graduate training. However, this is not where training to become a doctor ends. Instead, doctors then must complete a residency, which for family practice physicians means an additional three years of training.

Wednesday morning, Dr. Vicki Black of Central Washington Family Medicine in Yakima talked to members of the Sunnyside Daybreak Rotary Club about the Yakima residency program. She noted that the program works specifically to train family practice physicians.

Black said family practice physicians are important in places like Washington state, that include a lot of rural areas. She told Rotarians that without family practice doctors, places like Washington would be in dire straits as far as available physicians are concerned.

According to Black, Central Washington Family Medicine's residency program was first opened in the early 1990s. She said the residency program was started jointly by Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital and Yakima Regional Hospital, which still sponsors the program. She said the residency program is also affiliated with the University of Washington Network of Family Practice Residencies. She noted that this affiliation brings the Yakima residency program in contact with similar programs in 13 states across the nation. She said this helps bring additional resources to the local program and allows for the sharing of information.

Black said there are certain rules and requirements that come with operating a residency program. She said these requirements come through the American College of Graduate Medical Education. At this point, Black told Rotarians that the Yakima residency program takes the overall requirements and adds additional requirements that help prepare doctors to work in rural areas. She said they spend a little more time training in the emergency room, as well as going out and practicing with established rural doctors.

Black explained that Central Washington Family Medicine offers a three-year program, noting that there are six students currently serving as first-year residents, six students serving as second-year residents and six students serving as third-year residents. She said the local program just received its most recent first-year residents in July.

Black told Rotarians that Central Washington Family Medicine is set up like a community practice. Those in training see patients on a regular basis. She explained that working in the family practice center not only gives the residents more time with patients, but also exposes them to other aspects of an office environment. She said the center teaches them about everything from billing and coding to time management.

Although the residents each have their own patients, Black said there are also preceptors on hand. These are physicians who oversee the students' work.

Black said the students work around a schedule that includes 13 four-week blocks. During each of these four-week blocks the students are trained in various areas. This means by the time a resident has completed their third year they have spent time learning all of the different skills that are required of them.

According to Black, besides teaching the different skills required of residents, Central Washington Family Medicine also tries to instill in its doctors a sense of community. She said residents are involved in the United Way Day of Caring program, they provide sports physicals for local students and take part in the Tar Wars program, which is aimed at teaching fifth grade students the dangers of smoking.

Black told Rotarians that many of the students who have taken part in the Yakima residency program have gone on to practice in rural areas, from Wapato to Wenatchee.

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