A Greene County health center is partnering with a hospital and a postdoctoral training institute in West Virginia to offer a family medicine residency program aimed at bolstering training in a community setting and increasing access to primary care.
Cornerstone Care will offer the three-year program in conjunction with Mon General Hospital of Morgantown and Mountain State Osteopathic Postdoctoral Training Institutions.
Cornerstone Chief Executive Officer Robert MtJoy called the program a “pioneer effort” and explained that the community heath center will be only one of two in Pennsylvania with a teaching center.
Headquartered in Greensboro, Cornerstone currently provides primary care and preventative health care as well as dental and mental health care in eight locations in Southwestern Pennsylvania, including offices in Washington, Burgettstown, Waynesburg, Rogersville and Mt. Morris – the latter of which will host the residency program.
“For Cornerstone Care, recruiting primary care physicians is a longstanding challenge owing to a national shortage, and more particularly to a scarcity of primary care providers interested in practicing in our region,” said MtJoy.
He added that the issue is predicted to get worse since the medical field is not training enough primary care physicians to fill the shoes of retiring family practice doctors.
“According to information from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, of 67 Pennsylvania counties, 50 have health professional shortages and 63 are medically underserved,” said MtJoy.
The state has identified 27 municipalities in Washington County and 11 in Greene County as areas with a shortage of primary care health professionals.
“Evidence has shown resident physicians that have trained in a health center settings are three times more likely to practice in underserved settings after graduation,” said MtJoy.
The program will be funded by a federal grant provided under the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – a law that MtJoy said helps lay the groundwork for health care reform by providing funding directed at increasing access to preventative medicine and primary care.
Despite coming late into the recruiting arena because the program hadn’t been approved until mid-November, MtJoy said Cornerstone has successfully signed its first four residents, including one from Waynesburg. The program will begin in July and has been approved for 12 positions with up to four new residents being accepted each year.
The residents will split their time between Cornerstone, Mon General and other offices as they take on rotations in a variety of disciplines. Given the cross-border nature of the program, MtJoy said Cornerstone would obtain training licenses for both states.