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New program aims to support present, future physicians

ThedaCare moves closer to opening GME program

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October 16, 2023

NEENAH – ThedaCare’s goal to establish a graduate medical education (GME) program within the health system ebbs closer to reality as construction continues on the program’s space at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah – a part of the $100-million campus modernization project.

Christopher Stenberg, GME program leader and vice president of Graduate Medical Education and Clinical Research, said the goal of the program is “to prepare physicians to care for tomorrow’s health needs and challenges by creating advanced training opportunities for individuals who have completed medical school – including residencies, fellowships, internships and other specialty programs.”

Construction, he said, is estimated to be completed within the next three years – with Cannon Design, Miron Construction and Hplex Solutions serving as project partners.

Though Stenberg said the official opening date is dependent on a variety of factors, including receiving accreditation of the program by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

Stenberg said ThedaCare hopes the GME program, once completed, will help fill a major gap in the medical field.

“Nationwide, there is a shortage of residency spots for new physicians,” he said. “While the GME program will be housed on ThedaCare’s Neenah campus, the program will impact the entire ThedaCare health system.”

The initial residencies, he said, will support specialty physician needs and growing primary care throughout ThedaCare’s communities.

A look inside the program
ThedaCare’s GME program, Stenberg said, will be hospital-based and extend out to other ThedaCare locations.

“In addition to rotations in family medicine, the GME program will offer rotations in other areas of medicine, such as internal medicine, general surgery, obstetrics and more,” he said. “(We will also develop) partnerships with other health care institutions so our residents can experience cutting-edge opportunities in areas, such as transplant medicine.”

Stenberg said ThedaCare will provide residencies of three to five years in length – depending on the area of specialty a resident selects.

Each year, there will be a different class, much like any other educational institution.

The program, Mark Cockley, ThedaCare chief clinical officer and president of the ThedaCare Health Network, said will then “build up, (with) the senior residents teaching the junior residents, and then you have the chief residents.”

Another important aspect of developing the ThedaCare GME program as it works toward accreditation, Cockley said, is engaging the “whole hospital community and the community of our patients.” 

“They have to get used to residents being there,” he said.

Cockley said residents will learn from physicians, nurses and other team members.

The GME program, once construction is finished, will be located on the second floor at the Neenah medical center, in a 1,500-square-foot space that was vacated earlier this year by the Children’s Wisconsin ambulatory clinic.

Lynn Detterman – senior vice president of the ThedaCare South Region, which includes ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah – said the space will include an area for a multi-purpose classroom, a workstation area, a library, enclaves for private meeting rooms, a rest area, a gym, offices and lactation rooms for nursing mothers.

Froedtert Health merger
With the merger between ThedaCare and Froedtert Health expected to be finalized in 2024, Stenberg said the GME program will also work in harmony with partners at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) to amplify its mission around “education, research, patient care and community engagement.”

The relationship with Froedtert, Cockley said, will provide “flexibility and opportunity” for future ThedaCare GME residents as well.

Christopher Stenberg said ThedaCare’s new GME program will help combat the nationwide shortage of physicians. Rendering Courtesy of CannonDesign

?Cockley said the ThedaCare GME program residents could be rotated into transplant surgery or high-level pediatric surgery opportunities at a teaching facility, such as Froedtert.

“It also allows for residents from Froedtert to work in a rural critical access hospital, which could entice them to consider working in the rural communities in this region of Wisconsin,” he said.

The importance of teaching hospitals
Detterman said the Neenah medical center becoming a teaching hospital is “a big deal.”

According to the “Trendwatch: Teaching Hospitals Impact in a Transforming Health Care Landscape” by the American Hospital Association (AHA), teaching hospitals train the physician workforce, which is a role that has taken on increased significance due to both an aging population and predictions of a physician shortage.

The report also states that teaching hospitals drive innovations in health care and provide care to a diverse patient base, including vulnerable populations.
“The creation of a GME through ThedaCare will help strengthen the future of health care in Northeast and Central Wisconsin,” Imran Andrabi, president and CEO of ThedaCare, said. “The investment can benefit the entire region, with an opportunity for future caregivers to attain professional development and experience in our communities, and with hope, encourage them to make a home in the Fox Cities.”

Stenberg said the new GME program will also provide an opportunity for medical students who went out of state to train back home in Wisconsin for their residency.

According to statistics supplied by ThedaCare, studies show nearly 55% of individuals who complete residency training remain in the community in which they trained to practice medicine.

The GME program, Cockley said, will also benefit ThedaCare physicians.

“It really pushes us older doctors who are in town,” he said. “(They) elevate health care, just having them on site.”

When the Neenah-based program is established, ThedaCare will be among two other area healthcare organizations providing training for new physicians – joining the MCW-Prevea Family Medicine Residency Program in Green Bay and the Mosaic Family Health in Appleton.

To learn more about the GME program, visit ThedaCare’s website.

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