MISSOULA – Montana will gain five new medical doctors who will care for Montanans in rural and underserved areas on Sunday, July 3.
The University of Montana’s Family Medicine Residency of Western Montana will celebrate the graduation of its inaugural class of family physicians on Sunday, July 3. (UM Photo)

The University of Montana will celebrate the graduation of its inaugural class of family physicians, ushering in a new phase for the Family Medicine Residency of Western Montana. In July 2013, the program welcomed its inaugural class of 10 residents, and in July, the program will celebrate its first graduating class.

FMRWM is a three-year, intensive training program that prepares family physicians to practice effectively in rural and underserved areas in Montana. Of the first class to graduate, five out of the 10 family physicians already have accepted employment in Montana and will work in rural and underserved areas.
     Graduate Kevin Kropp plans to work in Kalispell, Saul Rivard will be employed by the Cooperative Health Center in Helena, T.J. Sherry and Scot Swanson are headed to Polson and Megan Svec will be employed in Ronan. Graduate Ben Grass plans to practice in rural Montana or British Columbia.
    Other graduates have accepted placements out-of-state: Harshida Chaudhari is headed to Texas, Dan McCarthy will begin an osteopathic fellowship in Oregon, Tim Ochoa will practice in Idaho and Sarah Zuger will work in California.
    When the residency program began in 2013, Montana ranked 50th in the nation for graduate medical education per capital. The creation of FMRWM more than doubled the number of family medicine physicians being trained in Montana each year and is expected to have a significant impact on the state’s shortage of primary care doctors in rural communities.
    “Our mission has always been to train family physicians for the rural and underserved populations in Montana,” said program director Dr. Ned Vasquez. “The program has been successful in its first three years due to the great investment in that mission by the residency’s staff, residents and faculty. The inaugural class has been an integral part of that process.” 
Vasquez said 53 out of the 56 counties in Montana are underserved, and 11 counties lack any physician at all.
    “We are dedicated to physician workforce development and changing those statistics,” he said.
“Our goal in the College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences is to train the next generation of health practitioners and researchers with a focus of not only serving Montana and its needs, but also the world,” said Reed Humphrey, dean of the college. “This residency program is a key component of UM’s Health & Medicine Initiative, which brings health care education and research together. We are excited to sponsor the FMRWM program and integrate inter-professional opportunities within the college and residency.”
     Headquartered in Missoula, FMRWM is sponsored by UM and affiliated with the University of Washington Family Medicine Residency Network. Distinctively, the program is dually accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and the American Osteopathic Association.
     The program’s three sponsoring hospitals in western Montana include Kalispell Regional Healthcare and Providence St. Patrick Hospital and Community Medical Center in Missoula. Residents are involved in continuity clinic training at Partnership Health Center in Missoula and Flathead Community Health Center in Kalispell.
     Additionally, the program works with an extensive rural training network of nine sites, including Blackfeet Community Hospital, Northwest Community Health Center, Providence St. Joseph Medical Center, Clark Fork Valley Hospital, St. Luke Community Healthcare, Community Physicians Group-Stevensville, Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital, Community Hospital of Anaconda and Barrett Hospital and Healthcare.
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