UM medical program celebrates new docs from inaugural class

The University of Montana’s Family Medicine Residency of Western Montana celebrated the graduation of its inaugural class of family physicians on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of UM)

Missoula Current

The University of Montana celebrated its inaugural class of family physicians over the weekend – new doctors who will serve rural areas of the state.

Ten new medical doctors emerged from the inaugural class at the Family Medicine Residency of Western Montana, including five who have found work in Montana, university officials said this weekend.

“Our mission has always been to train family physicians for the rural and underserved populations in Montana,” said program director Dr. Ned Vasquez. “The program has been successful in its first three years due to the great investment in that mission by the residency’s staff, residents and faculty.”

The program accepted its first class in 2013, a move that officially launched the three-year intensive training program to prepare family physicians to practice in rural and underserved areas of Montana.

According to the program, Kevin Kropp has accepted work in Kalispell, and Saul Rivard will be employed by the Cooperative Health Center in Helena. T.J. Sherry and Scot Swanson will work in Polson while Megan Svec will be employed in Ronan.

Other graduates have accepted placements out-of-state, including Texas, Oregon and California.

When the residency program began in 2013, Vasquez said, Montana ranked 50th in the nation per capita for graduate medical education. The Family Medicine Residency more than doubled the number of physicians being trained in the state, helping Montana address its shortage of primary care doctors in rural communities.

Reed Humphrey, dean of the College of Health Professionals and Biomedical Sciences, said 53 out of the 56 counties in Montana are underserved, and 11 counties lack any physician at all.

“Our goal in the college is to train the next generation of health practitioners and researchers with a focus of not only serving Montana and its needs, but also the world,” Humphrey, said. “This residency program is a key component of UM’s Health and Medicine Initiative, which brings health care education and research together.”

Headquartered in Missoula, the program is sponsored by UM and includes an affiliation with the University of Washington Family Medicine Residency Network. Three hospitals in western Montana also sponsor the program, including Kalispell Regional Healthcare, and Providence St. Patrick Hospital and Community Medical Center in Missoula.