There is a shortage of physicians in Michigan, especially in urban areas such as Detroit. But one city-based health care safety net organization has created an innovative program called Authority Health that encourages physicians to do their residencies in rural areas, as well as in urban centers like Detroit.
On Friday, June 27, at the Roostertail, Detroit Wayne County Health Authority, in partnership with Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, under Dean William D. Strampel, welcomed 28 physicians who will do their residencies in metro Detroit, including the city itself.
To mark this occasion, the doctors enrolled in the Authority Health program were ceremoniously presented with white coats that traditionally represent practicing medical doctors. The doctors will begin residencies in such areas as internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics & gynecology, psychiatry and geriatrics.
Dr. John Sealey, director of medical education, Detroit Wayne County Health Authority, who teamed to help establish Authority Health in Wayne County, the program, now in its second year, is greatly needed.
“While the residents will fulfill their hospital-based requirements, they will spend considerably more time in community health centers and other ‘street-level’ community health access points,” said Sealey.
“The residents will get a better feeling for the medical needs of vulnerable communities, like Detroit, and better understand the environment impacting health and health behaviors.”
Chris Allen, FACHE, Detroit Wayne County Health Authority’s executive director and CEO added, “This is an opportunity to welcome our new residents from 14 states to Detroit to show them the positive attractions here. For the next three or four years, they are going to know Detroit, know this region and learn a lot about what it means to be a physician and practice in an environment that’s supported by the Affordable Care Act.
So I’m happy that Detroit Wayne County Health Authority had the vision and the insight to create an opportunity for physicians to train in the community versus just hospital settings.”
Allen went on to point out that data has shown that when doctors work in the community and know their patient population, they are more likely to stay. Several of the program’s participating doctors agreed.
“I’m extremely happy to receive this white coat and begin my first-year residency in the local community,” said Dr. LaViesta Ferrell, an African- American woman from Clinton, Mississippi, who will start her residency in the field of psychiatry. “My hope is to learn all about Detroit and surrounding communities and remain here after I complete my four-year residency. I want to be in a position to help those in this community who will need my help in the field of psychiatry.”
One of most interesting doctors at the event was Dr. Horace Davis, an African- American physician who has practiced medicine in Michigan for the last three decades. As he received his white coat at the ceremony, he begins a fellowship in the area of geriatric medicine.
“I looked at the aging population in America and felt that I could make the most impact in gerontology,” said Davis. “I called Dr. Sealey and told him my plans. I will now be in this gerontology program for 14 months. I was boarded in family medicine and when I finish this fellowship, I will be boarded in gerontology. I want to make a difference; this gerontology program will help me be a difference maker in Detroit and surrounding communities.”
While Detroit’s reputation nationally has not always been positively received, Sealey is optimistic about the future of the Authority Health program, physicians coming to the city as residents, and their ultimate decisions to stay.
“If medical residents are given a good, community-based training experience, I’m confident they will remain in this community,” said Sealey, who was raised in a rural area of North Carolina, but after medical school vowed to work in medically-underserved areas, like Detroit.”
True to his word, Sealey has been a cardiovascular surgeon and medical educator in the Detroit area for almost 40 years.
“Many people that come here from other states have a misunderstanding as to how safe it is in Detroit,” said Sealey. “However, once they start working here, they feel more comfortable.
“While family medicine and primary care specialists currently aren’t considering establishing their practices in urban Detroit, I anticipate that many of the residents in this Authority Health program will choose to remain in the medically underserved areas of Detroit and Wayne County. The majority of the people in this year’s program wanted to come to Detroit. They want to get out of the hospital and train in this community.”