The way Dr. Glenn Dregansky sees it, the test he puts his new interns through each year goes to the heart of his mission as program director for the WMed Family Medicine Residency - Kalamazoo – training physicians who are not only adept at their craft but compassionate and considerate of patients’ needs and circumstances.
So, each summer after they arrive for their first year of residency, Family Medicine interns in Kalamazoo are treated to a challenge and asked to navigate their way from a local Goodwill store to the Family Health Center, a federally qualified health center (FQHC), in time for an appointment.
The experience, Dr. Dregansky said, has proven to be extremely beneficial for his newest physicians-in-training.
“We want our residents to be aware of what our patients face on a daily basis,” Dr. Dregansky said. “It is an eye-opening experience for our residents because they’ve never had to face those types of challenges and then try to be productive in that environment. The experience, we hope, helps them to begin the work of being a face and a force for positive change.
“That’s what I want to teach.”
Dr. Dregansky’s philosophy is one that continues to serve the Family Medicine program at WMed well. The three-year curriculum in Kalamazoo boasts 24 residents who gain a breadth of experience caring for an underserved patient population at the Family Health Center, as well as the WMed Clinics at the medical school’s Oakland Drive Campus, and inpatient work at Kalamazoo’s Bronson Methodist Hospital.
Dr. Lisa Graves, chair of WMed’s Department of Family and Community Medicine, said she and other faculty are committed to training generalist comprehensive care family physicians with sharpened skills in inpatient care, as well as obstetrics and gynecology.
“We continue to be a full-service residency,” Dr. Dregansky said of his program in Kalamazoo. “Our residents come out of our program and decide what they want to do and they’re not limited by their training. Our residents are good docs.
“My personal physician is a graduate of our program.”
Dr. Dregansky said the program is one that emphasizes versatility and responsiveness for resident physicians, particularly in light of the ever-changing needs of patients and their families. Whether residents picture themselves in private group practice, employed practice, rural health or continued training in a fellowship, the program offers an outstanding educational opportunity to reach their goals, he said.
The Department of Family and Community Medicine at WMed remains rooted in its mission and is expanding its reach in southwest Michigan beginning next year, as six physicians-in-training will be accepted annually into a three-year curriculum for a new Family Medicine Residency in Battle Creek.
The new training program, led by Dr. Holli Neiman-Hart, is the result of several years of work and collaboration by WMed, Bronson Healthcare, and Grace Health to form the new residency in the Cereal City. Once the residency is fully operational, 18 Family Medicine residents will be practicing in the community at any given time at Bronson Battle Creek Hospital and Grace Health, a FQHC in Battle Creek, will serve as the residency site for outpatient training.
Dr. Graves said the approval of the new residency program in April by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) was an important milestone in expanding graduate medical education at WMed and the institution’s continued mission to train physicians who serve patients and the medical profession with compassion and dignity.
“This is the fourth residency I’ve been a part of and this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to build a program,” Dr. Neiman-Hart said. “It’s a little intimidating and incredibly exciting. The chance to do this in Battle Creek is great because Battle Creek wants this.”
Dr. Neiman-Hart said the new residency program will provide residents with broad exposure to the many aspects of family medicine so they are well-prepared family doctors at the end of their training who “have the skills to help the neighborhoods they are going to serve.”
A key focus for Dr. Neiman-Hart as the leader of the new Family Medicine residency will be the retention of residents once their training has concluded, which she said will go a long way in addressing the overwhelming need for more primary care physicians in Battle Creek and Calhoun County.
“What we’re looking for in our first class of residents are people with a pioneer spirit,” Dr. Neiman-Hart said. “I think that every person in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at WMed has a passion not only for the education of our residents but also for providing care for the underserved and I think we try very hard to make that work.”
Dr. Graves said the new residency program in Battle Creek is a tangible reminder of the growth of family medicine at WMed and the medical school’s strong bond with the communities it serves.
As Dr. Neiman-Hart’s work continues to build the new residency program, Dr. Graves said faculty and residents are working tirelessly to increase access to medical care for patients, whether that be through the strengthening of maternity and prenatal care or the work by faculty who are serving patients through obesity management or at a trans-health clinic.
“The hallmark of a family physician is that they can alter themselves to care for whatever need the community calls for,” Dr. Graves said. “There is a lot of great stuff happening within our department at the medical school.”