UM graduates 12 family physicians; 11 say they’ll stay in Montana

The University of Montana will graduate its third class of family physicians from the Family Medicine Residency of Western Montana this Sunday.

Of the dozen graduates, a record 11 physicians are staying in the state. Eight will enter practices in rural and underserved areas in Montana and Oregon.

“It is extremely satisfying to see the fulfillment of our mission become a reality as our graduates head to the rural and underserved communities of Montana and the region,” Ned Vasquez, program director, said in a statement. “The fact they are doing so speaks highly of the individuals we have recruited and the curriculum they have experienced in their time with us.”

Noor Bass, Christina Richards and Ethan Richards have accepted jobs at Providence Health & Services Western Montana in Missoula, and Andrew Stritzke is joining Missoula at Community Medical Center.

Mariah Bonner, Laura Hoganson and Tyler Thorson will work at St. Luke Community Healthcare inRonan. Cassandra and Brian Lopez will practice in Lewistown at Central Montana Medical Center. Felicia Lucas is headed to the Northwest Community Health Center in Libby.

Amy Dear-Ruel will practice in northwest Montana, and Elizabeth Erikson will work in rural Oregon.

UM officials say the vast majority of Montana counties – 53 of 56 – are medically underserved, and 11 counties have no physician.

When UM’s residency program began in 2013, Montana ranked 50th in the nation for graduate medical education per capita. Since then, the program has more than doubled the number of family medicine physicians trained in Montana each year and Montana is now 46th in the nation for graduate medical education.

“The Family Medicine Residency program has proven to be an excellent way to integrate inter-professional opportunities and training within the college and residency,” said Reed Humphrey, dean of UM’s College of Health Professions & Biomedical Sciences. “UM’s sponsorship and close relationship with the residency program is incredibly valuable.”

Headquartered in Missoula, the Family Medicine Residency is affiliated with the University of Washington Family Medicine Residency Network. The program is dually accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and the American Osteopathic Association.

Sponsoring hospitals in Western Montana include Kalispell Regional Healthcare, as well as Providence St. Patrick Hospital and Community Medical Center in Missoula.

Residents also are involved in continuity clinic training at Partnership Health Center in Missoula and Flathead Community Health Center in Kalispell.

Additionally, the program works with an extensive rural training network of 10 sites, including Blackfeet Community Hospital in Browning, Northwest Community Health Center in Libby, Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Polson, Clark Fork Valley Hospital in Plains, St. Luke Community Healthcare in Ronan, Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital in Hamilton, Community Hospital of Anaconda, Barrett Hospital and Healthcare in Dillon, St. James Healthcare in Butte and Central Montana Medical Center in Lewistown.