CHI Health, Creighton University partner in new rural doctor program

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – Rural hospitals across the country are facing staff shortages. To help fill the void, CHI Health is partnering with Creighton University’s School of Medicine to launch a residency program for future doctors.

“We are actually expanding our residency training program, so that the doctors we train will train in rural areas with out CHI Health partners,” said Dr. Joann Porter, associate dean of the Creighton School of Medicine.

dr. Porter says there’s a great need to train doctors in rural areas of Nebraska — 34% of the state’s population lives in rural communities.

According to the Rural Health Information Hub, people living in rural communities see higher rates of death from cancer, lung disease, strokes, trauma, and diabetes compared to urban areas.

“There’s much higher rates of death and disease in the rural counties,” Dr. Porter said. “More poverty, more doctors retiring out there, so this is really important and I’m really excited to do this.”

Here’s how the new residency program will work:

Internal medicine and psychiatry residents will spend half of their residency training at CHI Bergan Mercy in Omaha. The other half will be spent at CHI Health Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney.

“Learning part of your practice in medicine in those communities gives you a leg up,” said Dr. Cary Ward, chief medical officer with CHI. “Better diagnostics skills, better ability to diagnose conditions earlier, so it’s a win-win.”

dr. Porter says most physicians end up in the city where they train.

“We know that’s where residents end up in their training, whatever location that is, because they’re starting their families,” Dr. Porter said. “They’ve established community and that’s where they tend to stay.”

They’re hoping this kind of residency program will entice doctors to stay in the rural areas where they train — especially where they’re needed — to make a difference in the lives of people living there.

“There’s a lot of great doctors in our state that would love to practice in rural areas,” Dr. Ward said. “It has a lot of rewards and this will help get them there and draw them there, without a doubt.”

The program is currently taking applications. They say they’ve had immense interest in the program, and it’s going to be competitive.

Match day happens in March, with the new residents beginning their roles in July.

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