Next June, WSU’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine will make history with its first class of graduates. The Spokane-based medical school announced another major first this month, the approval of a residency training program that will bring new doctors to Everett.
Based at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, the WSU Internal Medicine Residency Program-Everett is now accepting applications. Washington State University announced Sept. 16 that it had earned accreditation to launch the three-year program.
With a focus on primary care, it will bring 16 new doctors here starting in June 2021. Over three years, that number will rise to 40 positions in Everett.
“It’s going to be a really good thing for the community,” said Dr. Matthew Hansen, 37, director of the new WSU residency program at Providence.
Explaining the importance of residency, he said medical school graduates have a degree but aren’t fully equipped to treat patients.
“Residency makes you a doctor. You’re a sponge, learning as much as you can,” Hansen said.
Affiliated with The Everett Clinic, Hansen is a hospitalist who works at Providence. He’s been working with WSU to help establish the residency here for about three years.
“It’s serendipitous,” Hansen said Wednesday. “WSU medical school started a little over three years ago. Snohomish County is really growing. We’re really in need of primary care doctors, especially in internal medicine, to practice and serve the underserved.”
The residents won’t necessarily be WSU medical school graduates. Hansen expects 500 to 800 applications, from fourth-year medical students and graduates of med schools nationwide. About 180 will be interviewed — virtually, because of COVID-19 — and a ranking process will lead to selections.
Providence currently sees residents in rotation at the hospital from a local program, the Sea Mar Marysville Family Medicine Residency. Sea Mar Community Health Centers is an organization specializing in services to Latinos in the state.
Dr. Jonathan Espenschied, associate dean of graduate medical education and continuing education with the WSU college of medicine, said its third- and fourth-year medical students already do rotations at Providence. So applicants from WSU will be familiar with the Everett hospital. Along with Spokane and Everett, the school has clinical settings in the Tri-Cities and Vancouver, Washington.
“We’re a community-based medical school,” said Espenschied, meaning WSU doesn’t have its own teaching hospital. It partners with institutions.
While the program will be based at Providence, residents will serve with area clinics and groups that include The Everett Clinic, Snohomish Kidney Institute, North Sound Emergency Medicine, Western Washington Medical Group and Providence Medical Group Northwest.
Sixty WSU medical students are on track to graduate in June, Espenschied said Thursday. Of the 16 residents in Everett the first year, 12 will stay in the internal medicine program all three years. Partway through, the other four will go on to specialties elsewhere.
“Everett will be primary care. Not every student wants primary care,” Espenschied said.
The WSU program received the go-ahead from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) after a rigorous two-year development process, and following the college’s initial accreditation as a sponsoring institution two years ago.
“The mission to train medical students to serve our rural and underserved communities and increase the likelihood they will remain right here in Washington is well aligned with our goals,” said Dr. Jay Cook, chief medical officer at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, in WSU’s news release announcing the program.
Residency is a good way to “capture” doctors to serve in a community, Hansen agreed. About 70% of residency graduates choose to stay where they served those years, he said, while roughly 40% of medical school graduates locate where they attended that training.
Everett-based residents will rotate in their second or third year to more rural areas, such as Whidbey Island or Skagit County.
“They’ll practice delivering care in a small town,” Hansen said. “Patients maybe can stay in their communities. A lot of these small communities don’t have access to the care they need.”
A Bremerton native whose mom was a teacher, Hansen earned an undergraduate degree in neurobiology from the University of Washington. He planned to teach biology. Instead, he went on to the St. Louis University School of Medicine followed by a three-year residency at the University of Colorado.
Residency is “a high-stress, exhausting process,” yet Hansen said some of his closest friendships stem from that time in his life.
Still with a passion for teaching, he’s excited to see the Providence staff have more opportunities to educate young doctors.
“The medical staff are fantastic, they’re great role models,” Hansen said.
Impressed by the way Dr. Cook and others in Providence leadership have handled “a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic,” Hansen said COVID-19 “has highlighted more than ever that we need to improve access to care.”
“People get sick everywhere,” Hansen said. And thinking of the residents who’ll come here, he added “in 15 to 20 years, they’ll be the leaders of our health care system.”
Julie Muhlstein: firstname.lastname@example.org.