The first residents of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine Alton Family Medicine Residency Program began their three-year training at Alton Memorial Hospital on July 1.
A ribbon cutting was held July 2 in the program’s new offices on the first floor of Medical Office Building B on the AMH campus. Representatives from AMH, BJC, Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation (SIHF) and SIU School of Medicine attended.
“We are excited to be partnering with Alton Memorial Hospital and Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation in this program,” said Rebecca Hoffman, MD, MSPH, director of the program. “These organizations have a long and rich history of providing education, care and service to the populations of the area. Our shared vision for education, and patient and community care allow for many opportunities throughout our service areas.”
Dave Braasch, president of Alton Memorial Hospital, reflected on several years of planning and thanked everyone for their diligence and patience.
“Today is a momentous day in the history of the hospital,” Braasch said. “I really want to thank Dr. Hoffman for her persistence and commitment throughout what has ultimately been a seven-year journey, particularly in the midst of a pandemic. It’s a great day for our community as well, as we are training these physicians in Family Medicine.”
The residents will also be doing pediatric rotations at St. Louis Children's Hospital as part of the partnership with BJC.
Larry McCulley, president and CEO of SIHF, said “Our partnership with BJC and Alton Memorial goes back more than 20 years to our first health center in Madison County. Today expands our partnership, through a new Family Medicine Residency with SIU School of Medicine, in developing tomorrow’s work force. It is a pleasure to welcome the inaugural six residents into our SIHF Healthcare Alton Health Center as we look forward to a successful residency program for many years to come.”
Jerry Kruse, MD, MSPH, dean and provost of SIU School of Medicine, marveled at the new space for the program and thanked everyone for the collaboration.
“Effective health care always involves collaboration ─ between the patient and the physician, the medical team in the clinic, and the staff behind the scenes,” Dr. Kruse said. “We’re fortunate to be a part of this team effort. We are very grateful for all the groundwork you have done to get the right people and pieces in place to expand SIU Medicine’s outreach.
“You are helping our young residents become more confident, compassionate and highly skilled clinicians. And they in turn can practice medicine that will benefit the community’s residents of all ages ─ which is why SIU School of Medicine was founded.”
Dr. Hoffman said she recognized the need for the program after her experience working in express care and private practice.
“There simply weren’t enough family physicians around, and patient access was poor,” she said. “Those family physicians with thriving practices were also planning retirement within the next 5-10 years. I was hoping to re-establish a relationship with the School of Medicine—an organization near and dear to my heart as an alumnus and a former faculty member.”
After years of planning, the green light was given in August 2019. The round of interviews for the first class was all virtual because of the pandemic.
“I would like to recognize these fine resident physicians and their hard work as partners in the success of this program,” Dr. Hoffman said. “I wish you a hearty congratulations for all you have accomplished to get to this point and all that you will accomplish and experience over the coming three years of your journey with us as partners in education and training, service, outreach, and scholarship.”
SIU School of Medicine’s Department of Family and Community Medicine has four other Family Medicine residency programs in Illinois – in Springfield, Quincy, Decatur and Carbondale, which have collectively graduated more than 900 Family Medicine physicians since the first residency program started in 1971.
Pictured above: The first six residents of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine Alton Family Medicine Residency Program are, left to right, Dr. Christina Govas, Dr. Tyler Wright, Dr. Nazanin Kheirkhahan, Dr. Jonathan Klarich, Dr. Andrea Ramos Richards and Dr. Torry Pledger.