After medical students graduate, they are required to complete a residency in a specialty in order to become fully licensed physicians. These programs, commonly referred to as Graduate Medical Education (GME), range from one year for general internships up to eight years for certain subspecialties, like neurosurgery.
Before the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine (BCOM) was established, there was one residency program in Las Cruces at Memorial Medical Center (MMC) with 18 family medicine positions, not nearly enough to meet the demand from a school that will graduate over 160 students per year with a goal of keeping these new physicians in New Mexico.
Studies show that 70 percent of medical students remain in the area where they complete a residency training. National consulting firm Tripp Umbach estimates that each resident in a community-based residency program generates $200,000 in annual economic benefits to their community while in their program, and $1.9 million in economic benefits every year they remain in the area to practice after training, plus nine new jobs.
To fill the need, BCOM brought on nationally recognized GME authority, Oliver W. Hayes, DO, who was practicing in Michigan at the time. Dr. Hayes is board certified in emergency medicine and also holds a master’s degree in public health administration. He has written extensively on the development of GME and has been instrumental in creating hundreds of new residency training positions throughout the country.
Since joining BCOM in 2013, Dr. Hayes has grown the number of residency positions in Las Cruces to 81 between MMC and MountainView Regional Medical Center (MVRMC) where he also heads up the newly established residency program. In July 2016, MVRMC welcomed its first group of four residents into the one-year traditional rotation internship (TRI) and another three into the five-year orthopedic surgery program.
Matthew Justus, DO, is currently in the TRI. He has a Navy service commitment to fulfill after he completes the program this summer and then plans to go into pediatrics. “This program is making us better, more well-rounded physicians,” he said. “We’re doing obstetrics. We’re doing surgery and internal medicine. We become a jack-of-all-trades for a year. When we do start practicing medicine and referring patients to specialists, we can say ‘this is probably what’s going to happen at your visit,’ instead of just saying ‘I’m going to send you to this person and I have no idea what they are going to do.’”
Resident Ugonna Ezeh, DO, said the orthopedic surgery program is “grueling, but rewarding” and he pointed out that it doesn’t fall prey to the gender discrimination that is still found in the specialty today. “From my experiences and interactions with both males and females in several programs across the country, I feel there is still a discrepancy in the way women are treated in orthopedic surgery. It’s certainly an outdated mindset, but it does still exist. I can attest that the MVRMC program is gender neutral. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female. As long as you are a qualified candidate, you’ll fit right in,” he said.
On July 1 of this year, 22 new residents will begin their training in Las Cruces, Hayes said. They will fill newly established positions in the specialties of family medicine, Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT), internal medicine, and nueromusculoskeletal medicine. Future residencies are planned in psychiatry and anesthesiology. Dr. Hayes is also actively pursuing the development of these same positions in other communities throughout the region and has already received approval for nine family medicine and OMT positions in Alamogordo and another six in Roswell.