Grant to help start residency program at Pullman hospital

Elaine Williams, Lewiston Tribune, Idaho
·3 min read

Mar. 3—A $300,000 grant has brought Washington State University's Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and Pullman Regional Hospital closer to opening a residency program for family practice physicians.

The money from the Sunderland Foundation in Overland Park, Kan., will be used in a $1.5 million conversion of 5,000 square feet of hospital administration, medical records and fiscal services offices into a 14-room exam clinic, according to a news release the hospital issued this week.

The clinic would have a waiting room, study area, library and faculty offices for the program.

The separate clinic is a requirement for the residency program, which could debut as early as June 2022, said Rueben Mayes, chief development and external relations officer for the hospital, in an email.

But backers of the program caution that many more steps need to be completed before the program opens.

"We are still in the accreditation process to establish a residency program in Pullman," said Christina Marie Verheul, a spokesman for the college of medicine in Spokane, in an email.

"If the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education grants us permission to start a residency, then we will continue to operationalize our plans."

When that decision will be made is not clear. A site visit for the accreditation has been completed, said Alison Weigley, a spokeswoman for Pullman Regional Hospital.

If the program moves forward, it would have room for three resident physicians to join it annually for three years of training for a maximum capacity of nine, Mayes said.

All of the residents would have completed four years of medical school prior to being accepted by the residency and be paid during their time as residents, he said.

"Residents are recruited through a nation-wide match," Mayes said. "All medical school graduates looking for a residency program (could) apply from all across the nation. WSU (would be) the sponsoring organization of the residency program and the hospital (would be) their partner."

They would be supervised by Dr. Stephen Hall, developing program director, a family medicine physician with more than 30 years of experience who practices at Palouse Medical in Pullman, Weigley said.

Most of the annual operating costs of the program, which have not been publicly disclosed, would be covered by the college of medicine, with the hospital handling the remainder, Mayes said.

Bringing a residency program to Pullman has been a priority of the hospital for many years because it is perceived as a way for the community to increase access to primary care at a time when the nation is facing a shortage of doctors, Mayes said.

Some studies have shown that more than half of family medicine residents stay within 100 miles of where they graduate from residency, yet of 175 residencies and fellowships in Washington state, only 13 are located in eastern Washington, Weigley said.

The hope is at least some of the doctors who complete the Pullman residency would join an existing practice in the town or open their own, she said.

"That's one of the reasons that we feel the residency program is the best pipeline to recruit physicians," Weigley said.

Williams may be contacted at ewilliam@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2261.