|From left, Dr. Edward Panacek, Dr. Paul Henning and Dr. Larry Mellick have led the establishment of the new residency training program in emergency medicine.|
The program received accreditation in January and will welcome the first class of residents in July. Emergency medicine is a three-year residency training program, and USA will have six residents per year for a total of 18 residents. The department is actively interviewing candidates and will participate in the National Residency Matching Program on March 15. The program may also accept residents with advanced training and transfers from other residency programs.
“Alabama has an extreme shortage of board-certified emergency medicine physicians, ranking 49th out of 50 states for the number of qualified emergency physicians per capita,” said Dr. Edward Panacek, professor and chair of emergency medicine at the USA College of Medicine. He attributes this shortage to the lack of residency training programs in the state.
“Establishing the USA emergency medicine residency program will help us better meet the needs of the health care of the citizens of Alabama in two ways,” said Dr. John Marymont, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the USA College of Medicine. “In addition to the patient care we provide, as an academic health center we also play a vital role in regional workforce development, as most of our resident physician graduates choose to set up their practice close to where they complete their training.”
According to Dr. Panacek, who graduated from the USA College of Medicine in 1981, the majority of physicians, particularly emergency medicine physicians, end up practicing within 50 to 100 miles of where they finish their training, whether it’s the end of residency or the end of fellowship. “Alabama currently experiences a brain drain,” he said, “because we produce medical school graduates but then have had to send them to other states for emergency medicine residency training. The majority of them are not coming back. Our goal is to change this.”
Dr. Paul Henning, associate professor of emergency medicine, said the new emergency medicine residency program at USA – the second in the state of Alabama – will help fill the need for quality emergency-trained and trauma-experienced medical physicians not just in large cities but also rural parts of the state.
Dr. Henning joined USA last fall to take on a leadership role with the residency program, initially as associate director and later as program director. He is one of several new hires in the emergency medicine department, as the ACGME requires a minimum number of qualified core faculty members in order to establish a new residency program.
“Essentially, the academic department faculty have largely been built from the ground up over three years,” Dr. Panacek said. “We needed to attract and hire enough emergency medicine academic faculty to get a new residency approved. But without the EM residency yet established, they had to come on a bit of a hope and a prayer – a leap of faith. But, each time one was hired, it made it easier to hire the next.”
In addition to hiring enough new faculty, Dr. Panacek said the process to apply for a new residency program was lengthy and tedious. Once the program proposal was approved internally, the university applied for accreditation to the ACGME. This required detailed documentation of how the program would both operate and provide sufficient educational experiences for residents.
Having joined USA last spring, Dr. Larry Mellick, professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine and vice chair of academic affairs for emergency medicine at the USA College of Medicine, assisted in the application process and will serve as assistant director of the residency program. “An emergency medicine residency is very competitive and, like other popular residencies, attracts the cream of the crop of students,” he said. “Because of that, I have found over the years that other services love to have emergency medicine residents rotating with them.”
The new residency program in emergency medicine coincides with the groundbreaking for the new Fanny Meisler Trauma Center at University Hospital, scheduled to open in summer 2020. The new construction will more than double the size and modernize the space, enhancing the hospital’s ability to care for patients with traumatic injuries and respond to mass casualties.