Unique partnership brings doctors to state's underserved areas

UNC Family Medicine recognized the need for more primary care physicians in the underserved areas of North Carolina. They took action to help address the shortage by creating North Carolina’s first teaching health center, a partnership between community health centers (CHCs) and academic centers that train primary care physicians to provide care to vulnerable communities.

Facing an ever-growing shortage of primary-care physicians nationwide and an especially tight supply in rural and medically disadvantaged areas, the nation is desperately searching for new and effective ways to recruit well-trained physicians who are interested in long-lasting primary care medical careers in these underserved communities.

“Multiple studies provide clear evidence that when patients have a meaningful and continuous relationship with a primary-care physician, they have a 19 percent lower mortality rate and significantly reduced health-care costs,” said Dr. Warren Newton, chair of UNC’s Department of Family Medicine. “Patients are also much more likely to stop smoking, avoid obesity and have better health outcomes.”

UNC Family Medicine leaders and physicians have created a new education module, the Track in Underserved Medicine, in partnership with Piedmont Health Services Inc., which runs six community health centers in this region. The family medicine program also added two residency slots in 2011 and recruited two excellent new residents to participate in this track.

The goal is to form North Carolina’s first teaching health center, a partnership between community health centers (CHCs) and academic centers that train primary care physicians to provide care to vulnerable communities.

According to Dr. Evan Ashkin, associate professor of family medicine and director of the Underserved Residency Track, the inaugural class began seeing patients at Prospect Hill in July. The residents work side by side with the family physician faculty at Prospect Hill who receive focused faculty development throughout the year on precepting and training family medicine residents.

Click here for more information about the partnership.