IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - A new residency program is gearing up at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.
A residency is a stage of graduate medical training, where physicians practice medicine under the supervision of more established physicians in order to be a fully licensed practitioner.
"Very excited about having a residency here. This hospital has grown from a community hospital -- a doing hospital -- it's becoming a teaching hospital. And looking down the road 10 years, I think we're going to be an academic medical center," said Dr. Douglas Whatmore, the program director for EIRMC's Internal Medicine Residency Program.
This residency will train primary care internal medicine doctors; and right now EIRMC is in the interview process, narrowing down hundreds of applicants.
"We've had 850 applications, and we've got it down to about 200 that we're interviewing. It'll be fairly tough after that to select 10 for that first year," Whatmore said.
Internal medicine is described as physicians for adults. Those who practice are doctors who treat all diseases and problems, such as cardiac problems and diabetes. It is a more narrow practice than that of a family practitioner.
"We lack enough doctors in the area, not only interns, but family medicine, psychiatry," Whatmore said.
According to Idaho's Physician Workplace Profile, the Gem State is 49th in the country in its physician to population ratio.
"The advantage to our physicians in the hospital is that we have our physicians freed up to spend more time with the patients, more face time in the room. We have another pair of eyes on the patient, we have someone who's going to do some of the things that distract from patient care, such as doing the charting and documentation," Whatmore said.
There is a great need in the region for more physicians, and this residency helps in alleviating that shortage.
"Generally, residents tend to stay close to where they're trained. And that's why it's important we establish a program here. They will have developed a network here. They will have everything in place, they will already have their community around them. We will lose some, but I think we may keep as many as 60 percent here," Whatmore said.
This is three-year residency program officially begins in July, when the medical residents arrive in the city. This year's class will have ten internal medicine residents, and each year will add 10 more. Within three years, the southeast Idaho region will have 30 more internal medical physicians.