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'A pediatric desert' New medical residency program launching in Idaho

Dr. Thomas Patterson, a faculty member at Family Residency Medicine of Idaho, says the state is short 50 to 60 pediatricians.

BOISE, Idaho — A new pediatric residency program coming to Idaho is aimed at boosting the number of providers ready to care for babies and children. 

According to healthcare research agency Project ECHO, Idaho is currently ranked 50th in the nation for the number of pediatricians per the population.

"We've always been 50 to 60 pediatricians shy of where our goal needs to be, so we are really in a pediatric desert," said Dr. Thomas Patterson, a faculty member at Family Residency Medicine of Idaho.

Often, family medicine doctors are called upon to help to fill that gap.

Some medical students are interested in going into pediatrics, Patterson said, but end up on the family medicine track as a way to remain in Idaho and complete their training in the state.

The new pediatric residency program launching in July 2023 is will give future doctors more options, as well as help boost the number of pediatricians in Idaho, he said. 

"The mission of our program is to train outstanding broad spectrum pediatrics physicians to work in any setting—especially under-served and rural areas – and to serve the vulnerable populations of Idaho with high quality, affordable care provided in a collaborative work environment," the program description reads. "We are the first pediatrics residency to be based out of a Federally Qualified Health Center, rather than a medical school, university, or hospital."

Applications for the first class of residents will be accepted through Oct. 19, 2022, with interviews scheduled for the fall and winter. Applicants can not be more than two years out of medical school, and must apply through the ERAS system. 

Patterson said the program could help fill a major need for Idaho and beyond. 

"There is not a pediatric residency training program in the Pacific Northwest all the way to the Midwest of the country, so this really fills a desert that is existent that creates a problem of retention of recruitment of pediatricians to the area,” he said. "We have been working diligently this past year as a body of pediatricians planning the curriculum, the lecture series, the rotation series, how things will fold out which one of us will take over circular leads.”

The residency will partner with St. Luke's Children's Hospital, with rotations in the hospital's newborn nursery, pediatric ICU, and pediatric cancer unit, among others. 

Blocks of the program will also be dedicated to both rural pediatrics and community medicine. 

"We try to put a clinic where it will be in a needs area, because our heart is really taking care of the under-served and those who are underprivileged or don't have access to care," Patterson said. "We want to be there for them, and that's our goal in training pediatricians: To extend that from family medicine to pediatrics."

For more information about the residency program, click here

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