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Hundreds seek spot in Upstate's new Family Medicine Residency Program

Family Medicine team

The new Upstate Medical University Family Medicine Residency Program has a positive problem on its hands: too many good applicants.

Program Director R. Eugene Bailey, MD, FAAFP, said the program has received 400 applications for six spots. Program administrators and Upstate faculty are in the midst of more than 70 personal interviews with candidates; interviews will continue through the end of January.

The three-year program, which will begin in July, is the first residency program for Upstate Family Medicine. It’s also the first time a residency program will be based at Upstate’s Community Campus. Part of Upstate’s Family Medicine department began operating out of newly renovated space at the Community Campus in June 2018.

The program is a collaboration between Upstate and the Syracuse VA Medical Center, as all residents in the program will spend a portion of their time working at the VA.

Bailey and Harminder Grewal, MD, vice chair of education for the residency program and Women’s Health Medical Director for the VA, say the program has attracted extremely high-quality applicants. Upstate, the VA and the community will greatly benefit from having six new Family Medicine residents working in Syracuse each year and program staff hope its graduates will remain at Upstate or pursue a career working for a Veterans Affairs medical facility.

“It is a program that will offer a diversity of learning experiences to prepare our residents for a wide variety of job opportunities,” Bailey said. “The office at Community is state-of-the-art and will be a place where our residents will learn the key elements of family medicine including compassion, continuity of care to our patients, developing collaboration with our specialties and the importance of engaging the community.”

Upstate and the VA have been working together to launch the residency program for several years. It officially received accreditation from the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education in October and the program began accepting applicants shortly after. Most applicants are fourth-year medical students and will spend three years in the Upstate program. During that time, residents will work in nearly all areas of the hospital including the emergency department, pediatrics as well as labor and delivery. Several rotations will also take place at the VA where residents will work in areas such as telehealth and home-based care.

But the Upstate Family Medicine Residency Program is no “cookie-cutter” residency, Bailey said. In addition to working in many hospital areas at three locations (Upstate downtown, Community Campus and the VA), Upstate Family Medicine residents will have 20 weeks for educational development, an opportunity to obtain a Certificate of Advanced Study in Public Health, exposure to the VA’s Whole Health For Life Program and Upstate’s Institute for Global Health, as well as Upstate’s expertise in many sub-specialties.

“We have built into our program 20 weeks of elective time during the second and third year for residents to really explore opportunities and develop their career path,” Bailey said. “This program will allow them to pursue their passion and their dream.”

There is a great need, both locally and nationally, to expand the pool of primary care doctors. With an aging baby boom population – which includes those retiring from medicine – as well as expanded health care coverage for many Americans, more people are seeking out primary care all the time. Bailey and Grewal said the Upstate program, one of 40 new family medicine residency programs established in 2018, will help fill that void.

“We want a training program that prepares our residents not only to be excellent clinicians but also excel in education and serve in faculty and leadership positions,” Grewal said. “We are building an innovative program where they will not only develop their strength in clinical care but they will also be trailblazers in education and research. We want them to find and follow their passion.”

Another important element that has been built into the program is wellness, Bailey said. Students will have access to work-life balance discussions, art classes, burn-out prevention, self-care and meditation sessions.

“We really want to consider the work-life balance for our residents,” he said. “We want to provide closer mentorship to make sure they also develop personally and professionally in this program.”

Caption: Harminder Grewal, MD, vice chair of education for the Upstate Family Medicine Residency Program and Women’s Health Medical Director for the Syracuse VA (at left) stands with Program Director R. Eugene Bailey, MD, FAAFP, in the Upstate Family Medicine office at the Community Campus.