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FAU launches its first medical residency program

This is the first week of work for the members of Florida Atlantic University’s first medical residency program, which was established to help ensure Palm Beach County has enough doctors.

There are 36 internal medicine residents in the three year program. They will rotate among Boca Raton Regional Hospital, the primary site for the program, Bethesda Hospital East and Delray Medical Center. Post-medical school residencies provide real-life training for medical school graduates to become competent, board-certified physicians.

The residency program is associated with FAU’s new medical school, which began in 2011. The first medical students to receive their M.D. from FAU will graduate next year. Each of those students will then have to complete a residency before they can begin their practice.

Robert Pearlman, chief development and strategy officer for Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, said a residency program is essential to keep newly minted doctors in Palm Beach County.

“The program is vitally important because about 50 percent of the residents who train here will remain in this area,” said Pearlman quoting a 2012 study by the Association of American Medical Colleges. “As we have a physician shortage right now, this will alleviate some of that.”

The FAU Consortium for Graduate Medical Education was formed in the fall of 2011 in partnership of FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine and Palm Beach County hospitals including West Boca Medical Center and Bethesda Healthcare.

The consortium will also launch residency programs in emergency medicine, general surgery and obstetrics and gynecology in the coming years.

The three hospitals are working together on the new residency program to expose the internal medicine residents to a mix of systems, patients and socioeconomics.

“We want to make sure they know how to care for the underserved as well as the people with means,” said Dr. David Bjorkman, dean and executive director of medical affairs for Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine. “We want them to learn how to care for elderly patients who have Medicare as well as younger patients who may be on Medicaid.”

This is the first time that each of the participating hospitals will host a post-graduate training program. For the first five years, each hospital will be funded by the federal government through Medicare.

After the five-year period, the government will determine which and how many residencies will be funded. After a cap is placed, a hospital may continue to host residents but at their own or the medical school’s cost.

“These hospitals are putting out their resources to start these residences and they will get reimbursed for some of their costs, but not for all of their costs,” said Dr. Bjorkman. “So these are hospitals who are stepping up to the plate to do what’s right for the health care in Palm Beach County.”

Dr. Charles Posternack, the chief medical officer at Boca Raton Regional Hospital, said there has been a longtime desire for the hospital to become an academic medical center.

“It gives you the opportunity to train your own future physicians. It’s not like trying to integrate a stranger into your system,” said Dr. Posternack. “They’ve grown up in your system so they know your values and they know your mission statement. They understand what you’re trying to do.”

The internal medicine residency program accepted 36 of 3,900 applicants.

FAU’s inaugural residents class is coming from the University of Miami, Florida International University and the University of Central Florida, as well as medical schools across the nation including Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, University of Southern California and others.

Andre Kydd, 32, is one of the members of the first crop of residents at FAU. He earned his bachelor’s degree in biochemical studies at Harvard University and his M.D. at John Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Kydd said he applied to the FAU residency program because he has family in the area.

“It’s great to have that other support,” Kydd said. “Residencies are difficult in terms of hours and stress so it’s great to have that extra love.”

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