By Wendy Sarubbi | June 6, 2017 11:25 am

UCF’s first partnership internal medicine residency program will graduate its first physicians June 8, honoring the pioneers who are helping inspire new graduate medical education programs across the state.

The College of Medicine’s first residency began in 2014 in partnership with HCA’s North Florida Division’s Osceola Regional Medical Center and the Orlando VA Medical Center. That program led to a UCF College of Medicine-HCA consortium that is expected to add 600+ new residency slots to the state by 2020. In the past two years alone, the consortium has added 14 residency programs and one fellowship in Orlando, Ocala and Gainesville and will have about 250 physicians in training this summer. Multiple additional new programs are planned.

Residency programs have a direct impact on a community’s number of doctors and residents’ access to healthcare. That’s because in order to practice, medical school graduates must complete residency training in a specific specialty for three to seven years. Florida’s number of residency programs has not kept pace with its population growth and increasing number of medical schools, which contributes to the physician shortage.

Increasing numbers of residency programs can help ease that shortage because most residents set up practices where they train. That’s true for this year’s UCF-HCA internal medicine graduates.

Of the 16, nine are staying in Central Florida. Two will practice in Gainesville. Three are going onto fellowships in specialties such as hematology/oncology and sleep medicine. Three are going out of state to practice.

“Residency programs are part of the promise we made to this community,” said Dr. Deborah German, UCF vice president for medical affairs and founding dean of the College of Medicine. “If we have more residencies, we’ll have more trained doctors in our community. We’ll become a net importer of medical talent.”

Many of the graduating residents are becoming hospitalists – internal medicine physicians who specialize in the care of hospitalized patients. In the past, a patient’s physician made rounds at the local hospital to visit his or her patients. That practice started changing about 10 years ago to provide more convenient, efficient and coordinated in-patient care.

Hospitalists supervise the care of patients with acute illnesses or complications from chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. They coordinate care between specialists and because they work in a hospital setting, they order and receive test results quickly to make a diagnosis. Their goal: Diagnose how a serious illness or complication happened and stabilize the patient for life outside the hospital. The career as a hospitalist generally pays more than an outpatient practice and offers a set schedule, which some physicians seek for work-life balance. Several of the UCF graduating residents said they were drawn to hospitalist work because its fast pace gives them the opportunity to treat and learn from diverse patients and health conditions.

“Care in the clinic is usually stable. The hospital environment is more challenging,” said Dr. Leslie Soto, a graduating resident who is joining a hospitalist practice in Gainesville. “Being a hospitalist gives you to the opportunity to make an impact on a patient’s life at a critical moment.”

The UCF-HCA residencies are located at Osceola Regional, North Florida Regional Medical Center in Gainesville and Ocala Regional Medical Center in Ocala. They are in a variety of programs — internal, family and emergency medicine, surgery, neurology, OB-GYN, psychiatry and a transitional year residency for physicians planning to enter specialties such as dermatology and anesthesiology. The new fellowship program — in endocrinology — is located at Osceola Regional. More UCF-HCA residencies and fellowships are planned and the two entities have also partnered to build a joint venture community-based teaching hospital next to the medical school in Lake Nona.

“Educating tomorrow’s physicians is a key priority for HCA’s North Florida Division, and as the nation’s leading hospital network, we are proud to dedicate our resources and expertise to the task,” said Joel Jeffries, M.D., vice president of graduate medical education. “Together with UCF, we are committed to providing our residents with an exceptional training and mentorship experience.”

Florida currently ranks 41 of the 50 states in residents per 100,000 residents. The lack of training programs exacerbates Florida and the nation’s physician shortage. With America’s growing and aging population, a study conducted for the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicts the U.S. will have a shortage of 40,800 to 104,900 physicians by the year 2030. The shortages will occur in primary and specialty care and “pose a real risk to patients,” the study concluded. Florida’s shortage is worsened because of upcoming retirements. Almost 62 percent of the state’s physicians are over 50, according to a 2016 Florida Department of Health report. And in 11 of 14 specialties the report examined, 30 percent of the doctors are 60 or older.

The charter resident graduation will be Thursday, June 8 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the UCF College of Medicine, 6850 Lake Nona Blvd., Orlando, FL 32827

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