So what’s being done to stall this future shortage of doctors? At CoxHealth, hope is being put in the hospital’s family medicine residency program. Before diving into what this residency program can offer CoxHealth and southwest Missouri patients, it’s important to first point out that Springfield doesn’t have a medical school. In fact, CoxHealth’s family medicine residency program is the only residency program in town other than Mercy’s Nurse Residency Program.
The family medicine residency program at Mercy was started by Larry Halverson in 1987. Kyle Griffin, the program’s current director, joined in 2000 as a family medicine resident, and has been at the helm since 2014. Griffin says a big part of why CoxHealth invested in this residency program more than 30 years ago was to bring more primary care practitioners to southwest Missouri. “The hope is that we can retain and keep these doctors in the system to take care of our community,” he says. “Data shows that most [doctors] stay within 100 miles of where they train.”
So far, Griffin says the program has graduated 217 residents and about two-thirds stay in the area. He also says the program is growing. When Griffin was a resident, he was one of eight doctors in the program. Today, Griffin says the program has grown to a class size of 10. That might not be enough to halt an impending shortage, but it gives Griffin hope. “For 12 years in a row, family medicine has grown,” he says. “I think medical students are catching a vision for what family medicine has to offer particularly in valuing relationships with patients. To go into family medicine, you have to choose this out of a calling and be committed to it.”
To make its program attractive to students, CoxHealth and Griffin have worked at establishing partnerships with key players including Jordan Valley, which will have a new CoxHealth clinic site next year, and the University of Missouri. To help address the shortage of physicians in Missouri, the MU School of Medicine opened a satellite clinical campus in Springfield in 2016 and has since partnered with both CoxHealth and Mercy.
Now, med students in years three and four of their training spend clinical hours at both hospitals. “Springfield has an incredible clinical volume for students,” says David Haustein, associate dean at the Springfield Clinical Campus. While the clinical campus is still new—it’s only recently graduated its first med school class—Griffin is excited about what this partnership could bring in the future. “We find a lot of the students interested in our program already have ties to the area,” he says. “Some don’t, but they come and train and love Springfield and stay.”