The Department of Family Medicine in the UTHSC College of Medicine-Chattanooga has received a $750,000 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to support the establishment of the Family Medicine Residency Rural Track in Bledsoe County.
The Family Medicine Residency Rural Track will be an expansion of the current Family Medicine Residency in Chattanooga, founded in 1995, and is a three-year program that sponsors seven residents each year and provides inpatient care at the Erlanger Baroness Campus. The rural residency track will offer training and extend health care in Bledsoe County in partnership with the Erlanger Bledsoe Primary Care practice in Pikeville, Tennessee.
“COVID shut down a lot of our global health and international mission work and put a spotlight on the desperate need in our immediate areas. It made us look at our neighboring counties and what their primary health care needs were, and it was shocking to see the lack of health care access in some of these areas,” said Leslie Griffin, MD, MPH, chair of the Department of Family Medicine and director of the Family Medicine Residency program in Chattanooga. “A funding opportunity appeared for us to grow our residency program, and we determined that the best way to serve the areas would be to start a rural training track.”
The program will target primary care with expanding care in areas including cardiology, pulmonology, orthopaedics, and urology. Residents in the track will work at the Erlanger Baroness Campus for the first year and work alongside physicians and serve their own outpatient panel for the final two years of the program at Erlanger Primary Care at Bledsoe. In addition, faculty members in the Department of Family Medicine will train and assist residents in patient care, and help expand care in pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, and endoscopy screenings.
The HRSA grant will support the startup costs for the program, including recruitment and purchasing equipment for training.
“We want to train physicians to continue serving in rural areas. We typically take people from rural counties and bring them into large centers to train, and they tend to follow the path of staying where they train,” Dr. Griffin said. “We want to expand that training and provide access to care to these communities. We also have targeted counties that we want to work with after a successful launch in Bledsoe.”
“Our college is extremely proud of the extensive work Dr. Griffin and her colleagues put in to secure this Rural Residency Program Development grant,” said James Haynes, MD, MBA, FAAFP, dean of the UTHSC College of Medicine – Chattanooga. “We anticipate this grant funding will fuel efforts to improve rural health, health equity and rural health education in numerous underserved counties for years to come. We are also thankful to HRSA for providing funding longitudinally to improve rural health across our nation.”
UTHSC is dedicated to extending its reach and increasing access to quality health care in rural and underserved areas across Tennessee, as it strives to fulfill its vision as stated in its new 2023-2028 Strategic Plan: “Healthy Tennesseans. Thriving Communities.” The university has campuses in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga, and clinical and educational partnerships at major hospitals including Erlanger Health System in Chattanooga; Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital in Nashville; The University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville; and West Tennessee Healthcare – Jackson Madison County General Hospital in Jackson.