Yesterday, in the breezy space of an outdoor tent in the Plaza of Honor, Kent Hospital celebrated the graduation of its first group of residents from its Graduate Medical Education Program. The five residents will now go on to careers in their fields of emergency and family medicine, though most will take their practices to other states. One graduate will stay at Kent as a fellow for their new Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine program.
“It is an honor and privilege to celebrate the accomplishments of our first graduating class and to welcome our new residents,” said Sandra Coletta, Kent Hospital president and CEO, in a statement. “Kent Hospital is proud to play a critical role in helping to shape our future leaders in health care and providing them with the foundation for their careers as physicians.”
Mayor Scott Avedisian congratulated the graduating residents, and wished the newest interns good luck.
“You’re joining an incredible group of committed people,” he told them. “When good people come together for the right reasons, there is nothing that can’t be accomplished.”
Though this is the first class to graduate from Kent’s (GME) program, Kent has allowed residents to work within the hospital for more than a decade. Ten years ago, Kent formed its current formal relationship with the University of New England, and has hosted about 20 residents each year since then. In 2006, Kent decided they would like to have a greater academic presence, and in 2008 they began their first two GME residency programs for Emergency and Family Medicine.
Doctor Joseph Spinale, director of medical education at Kent, explained that the term “resident” comes from the early days of medicine, when doctors-in-training would literally live at the hospitals at which they worked. Now, although residents do not live in the hospitals, they spend 60 to 80 hours a week working at them.
Residents in the Family Medicine program spend three years working at the hospital, while those in Emergency Medicine spend four years. This year, Kent will begin its Internal Medicine residency program, which, like Family Medicine, will take three years to complete.
Yesterday, Kent graduated two doctors in the Emergency Medicine department, and three in the Family Medicine program.
Dr. Jennifer Kabak, who graduated the Family Medicine program, said it is both overwhelming and exciting to be done with her residency.
“It’s overwhelming knowing on July 1 I’ll be seeing my first patient on my own with no one to turn to and say, ‘Is this right?’” she laughed.
Kabak did not always have plans to be a doctor, and got her B.A. in Journalism from NYU. She went on to get her M.A. in Journalism from Northwestern, and decided to focus on medical journalism. After working with a physician, she began to envision becoming one herself, and so she headed to the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine to get her Doctorate.
When it came time to apply for a residency program, Kabak saw Kent as a good fit for her.
“The obstacle with new residency programs like Kent’s,” said Kabak, “is that people tend to pick the big university programs. I like community hospitals because everyone knows who you are. We’re a good solid group and we’re getting ourselves on the map.”
Now that she’s completed her residency and will begin her career as a doctor (not as a journalist as she originally thought), Kabak said she knows she picked the right field.
“Every day I think, ‘Family medicine is perfect for me,’” she said. Kabak, originally from Brooklyn, will be heading back to her home in New York to work at the Community Health Center affiliated with the Lutheran Medical Center.
None of the graduating residents are originally from Rhode Island, which is in part due to the fact that Kent’s recruitment process casts a nationwide net, said Spinale.
“It’s a rigorous selection process,” he said. “For the five open slots we had, we got more than 250 applications. Of those, there’s an initial vetting process based on board scores and written evaluations. Then we interviewed 78. Our top 20 go into a national database, and the computer matches residents to hospitals. All five of ours were in our top 15.”
Kent’s 2011 graduating residents are from various parts of the country, with one resident from Vietnam: Dr. Austin Nguyen.
Dr. Nguyen, originally from Ho Chi Minh City, completed his training in Emergency Medicine in January 2011. He will travel to the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Fontana, Calif., to work as an emergency physician. Dr. Carla Dugas will also be graduating from the Emergency Medicine program. Dugas, originally from New Orleans, La., will relocate to Vineland, N.J. to join the emergency medicine team at South Jersey Health System Regional Medical Center.
In addition to Dr. Kabak, other Family Medicine graduates include Dr. Susan Heasley, who will join doctors in a rural health clinic in Strafford, Mo., and Dr. MaryBeth Hanley, who is the only graduating resident that will be staying at Kent. She will serve as the Hospital’s debut Fellow in Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine.
Spinale said that all of the graduates were highly recruited to stay in Rhode Island.
“There’s a physician shortage in Rhode Island,” he said. “It’s difficult to recruit because of the high cost of living, and low reimbursements.”
“It’s tough to practice family medicine in this state,” said Kabak. “You’re often overlooked, and not well paid.”
Spinale explained that physician’s salaries and reimbursements are lower in Rhode Island than in other states, so doctors often go to nearby states like Massachusetts or Connecticut to get paid better wages.
Spinale hopes that in the future, residents with stronger ties to Rhode Island will stay in the state.
“I think the number of doctors who stay here will be higher next year,” he said. “When we started, these were both new programs. As we become more established, the number of applications will go up, and the selectiveness will be greater. We’ll take the best physicians, who are also the most likely to stay.”