Kaweah Delta launching new residency program

Kaweah Delta Medical Center is joining forces with UC Irvine for a new residency program starting next year.Kaweah Delta Medical Center is joining forces with UC Irvine for a new residency program starting next year.A Kaweah Delta Medical Center residency program beginning next year for University of California, Irvine medical school graduates is expected to attract new physicians who might later open permanent practices for Tulare-Visalia area patients.

Amy Shaver, director of Kaweah Delta's graduate medical education department, expects no money from either Tulare County or the university. Six family medicine and six emergency-medicine graduates begin residency in July 2013. A psychiatry residency follows in 2014, with general surgery and transitional year programs in 2015.

“We're a district hospital, not a county hospital,” Shaver said. “But there is no county hospital, so it serves that purpose.”

After extensive scrutiny, Kaweah Delta Health Care District earlier this year received go ahead notices to establish multiple residency programs from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. An extensive build-out program will prepare the fifth-floor of its Support Services Building on West Mineral King Avenue in Visalia to house the Margaret Foley Graduate Medical Education Center.

Kaweah-Delta officials estimate that between 40-50 percent of the resident physicians involved in the new program will remain and practice in the Visalia area.

Medical students and recent graduates are expected to begin visiting the area soon. It's typical for medical students to participate in four-week student clerkship rotations at hospitals where they are considering applying for residency, Shaver noted. Such positions are unpaid.

Kaweah Delta is already recognized as a Level III trauma medical center and as a center offering advanced medical care to the region. It already offers services including a pediatric hospital-care program and nationally-recognized orthopedic and cancer programs.

The in-house Margaret Foley Graduate Medical Education Center will include conference rooms, a resident lounge and the graduate medical education offices. A “simulation center” will be located on the fifth floor of the Havard Mirviss Education Center. It will also be expanded to include a control room and an additional simulation suite.

There, resident physicians will be trained and observed working in simulated patient situations. That's in addition to working with the normal inflow of real patients, Shaver said.

“We were already recognized as a trauma and medical center and as a center that offers advanced medical care to the region, so to add teaching institution is exciting,” said Dr. Mark Garfield, Kaweah Delta's chief medical officer.

A University of California, San Francisco graduate medical education program with Fresno-based Community Medical Centers rotates some 250 students each year through eight specialty medical graduate programs. There are some 40 “fellows” in sub-specialties “beyond medical residency training,” program coordinator Brandy Nikaido said. “We're providing medical care for patients.”

Medical graduates in the program work in the Veterans Administration Central California Health Care system and in other Central Valley hospitals. Family-medicine residents work in Selma Community Hospital.

“We're conducting research that is important to the Valley's population and we're developing a pipeline of students who are academically prepared for careers in medicine,” Nikaido said.

Of the graduate medical students involved in addressing the “severe shortage of physicians in the San Joaquin Valley,” Nikaido said that each year, an estimated 30-50 percent of those who complete the UCSF-Fresno programs remain here to practice.