Teaching Health Centers Provide Community-based Residency Training Opportunities


On December 1, MAFP Advocacy Committee member and associate professor of Family Medicine at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, Julie Phillips, MD, MPH and MAFP Director of Government Affairs, Christin Nohner, MPP, traveled to Detroit for an enriching tour of a Teaching Health Center—one of just two such health centers in Michigan.

The Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) program administered by the Detroit Wayne County Health Authority (now Authority Health) and Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine was established in 2011. Under the direction of John Sealey, DO, Michigan's THCs are providing quality primary care residency education in community-based settings.

The intention behind the THCGME model is intuitive: teach aspiring primary care physicians in settings where they are directly exposed to the community and the multitude of factors that influence health. It is beyond the walls of the hospital that residents can develop a robust clinical background and a comprehensive understanding of an area’s population health dynamics.

Dr. Sealey accompanied Dr. Phillips and Ms. Nohner on a visit to one of the Family Medicine residency sites hosted at a nearby practice run by Derrick Williamson, DO. There they met second-year resident Jason Bortnem, DO, who is training under Dr. Williamson’s guidance. Dr. Bortnem spoke enthusiastically of the benefits of training under the THC model and how it is influencing his decision to stay and practice in the community where he is training.

While still in its infancy, the THC model is uniquely instructive for advocates at the state and federal level who are deliberating on how to encourage more primary care physicians to choose to practice in underserved urban and rural communities. New research from the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care shows that, "a higher percentage of residents from THCs are choosing to work in areas of greatest need compared with their peers from traditional residences," as reported by the AAFP.

At the very least, the model may serve to influence the 2016 Michigan Family Medicine Advocacy Day efforts around Graduate Medical Education reform and policies to expand access to primary care in underserved communities.

Pictured above (L-R) are Dr. Julie Phillips, Dr. John Sealey, Dr. Derrick Williamson, and Dr. Jason Bortnem.