One of the most essential parts of a healthy life is equitable access to quality healthcare. Our community has always understood that. It’s why several local organizations came together to bring more healthcare providers to Battle Creek.

Copious research, feedback from the community, and a whole lot of collaboration have led to the creation of the Residency Program in Battle Creek.

ADDRESSING COMMUNITY NEEDS

A decade ago, there weren’t enough healthcare providers in Battle Creek to effectively take care of our community. This fact drew the attention of Bronson Battle Creek Hospital, the Community Partners Board, and the Battle Creek Community Foundation. They knew immediately that this deficit had to be addressed.

The three groups dove into researching which areas of expertise could best benefit the people of Battle Creek. While there were many types of healthcare providers that could have bolstered the area, Family Medicine practitioners were the best fit for the community’s needs at the time.

The groups had identified the need, but they had to figure out how to attract Family Medicine providers to the area. To do this, they developed a budget of $3 million, including a pledge from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and put together a plan to create a residency program.

These organizations played a large role in facilitating the Family Medicine Residency Program in Battle Creek:

DEVELOPING THE RESIDENCY PROGRAM

In 2016, Holli K. Neiman-Hart, MD, FAAFP moved from West Virginia to Battle Creek. She had been a program director at West Virginia University for six years before she made the move to our community, and she brought that experience with her. Once here, Dr. Neiman-Hart began developing the residency program that Bronson Battle Creek Hospital, the Community Partners Board and the Battle Creek Community Foundation had envisioned.

She worked with Western Michigan University School of Medicine and began by reaching out to local resources to see who would be willing to assist with resident experiences. Dr. Neiman-Hart wrote curriculum, secured an agreement with Grace Health for residents to assist with outpatient clinics, and prepared an application. This application was approved by the Resident Revie Committee (RRC) for Family Medicine at the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. The approval also required a site visit here in Battle Creek.

Although the initial application was not approved, this didn’t discourage everyone involved from seeing the mission through. After some adjustments, the application was approved in 2018. Finally, after all of that hard work, the Family Medicine Residency Program was ready to launch. Still, the team decided to delay the program until 2019, so they could be part of the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) which works with all healthcare specialties to match residents with programs that are right for them.

THE NEXT GENERATION OF HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS

Residents in the program are fully immersed in hands-on clinical experience and trained on the full scope of Family Medicine. Residents work alongside existing Grace Health faculty to provide care for patients within the community. The Family Medicine Residency Program also facilitates experiences for OB/GYN and pediatric students.

The program includes weekly four-hour classes, which can take the form of discussions, workshops and more. Residents will gain the experience of being on call for Grace Health Hospital, both within the establishment and from home. The focus is on providing residents with the inpatient and outpatient experience they need. This can then act as a foundation for the residents’ work as they continue to grow throughout their careers.

So far, the community has embraced the new program with open arms. Even better, the program is just getting started. The next goal is to determine how to be more active in the community and expand services to benefit the region that has been so supportive throughout these formative years.

THE FUTURE OF THE RESIDENCY PROGRAM

Applicants from around the country will be applying to join the program later this year. After all, the Family Medicine Residency Program in Battle Creek has started a track of specialty training in Functional Medicine, which is rare for a program this young. When six more prospective residents are accepted later this year, those in the program look forward to continuing this trend of success.

Of course, there are still areas in which the program is looking to expand. Current focuses include increasing community outreach, recruiting additional faculty, and sponsoring residents after they graduate.

Another goal is to become fully accredited with the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). Right now, the program has the status of “Continued Accreditation without Outcomes,” which is the best possible title for a program this young. As residents graduate, they’ll pass the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM) Board Exam and successfully enter practice, which will then allow the program to achieve the next level of accreditation.

None of this growth or success would have been possible without the supporting organizations and encouragement from the community as a whole.

“I just want to express my gratitude for the wonderful reception that we have all experienced as we arrived in Battle Creek,” said Dr. Neiman-Hart. “The ongoing support is amazing, and we hope to be around for a long time.”

X