Amid the brilliance, beauty and bounty of Mendocino County, there is a revolution happening in medical education.
This revolution involves the creation of a family medicine residency program in our vast rural region, where no such programs have existed before. Mendocino County has been described as a graduate medical education “wasteland.” This image acknowledges the enormous challenges inherent in preparing our rural medical ecosystem for growing a new generation of family doctors.
Santa Rosa, on the other hand, enjoys the privilege of medical education abundance. This community is renowned for its family medicine residency program, which began in 1969 when the specialty was created, and the program is now lauded as being among the best in the nation.
Meanwhile, Kaiser Santa Rosa is starting a family medicine residency program this summer, strengthening the community’s graduate medical education resources. Head north, however, and you will find no residency programs until you reach Redding and, beyond that, nothing until you reach Klamath Falls, Oregon.
In Mendocino County, there is a primary care shortage that is worsening at an alarming rate. Increasingly, folks are making the 60-mile or more trek south to Santa Rosa for primary care, which puts strains on families and resources. The Ukiah-based family medicine residency program is a desperately needed solution to our rural primary care shortage in Mendocino County and beyond.
This three-year residency program is sponsored by Adventist Health Ukiah Valley and affiliated with UC Davis’ Department of Family and Community Medicine. The program will accept new medical school graduates starting in summer of 2019, with the first year of training taking place at UC Davis and the second and third years in and around Mendocino County.
We will soon be growing our own rural family doctors, but this is a heavy lift. It requires collaboration among medical staffs, cooperation between different health care agencies, sustained affiliation with an academic center, creation of new housing options and millions of dollars in start-up funding.
How can Santa Rosa support a sister community up the road to create rural primary care training? There are a multitude of ways. For example, we need board-certified volunteer clinical faculty to act as teachers for electives in Santa Rosa as well as expert family medicine faculty willing to come to Ukiah to help train the next generation. And there is also support needed that requires no special training — just come to a rock concert.
In typical Mendocino County style, the approach to creating the new residency program has been highly collaborative. In 2015, Family Medicine Education for Mendocino County was created as a 501c3 nonprofit to give the community a voice in the residency program and help raise needed funds to support it. Subsequently, FMEMC launched an annual fundraising concert called Rural Health Rocks. For the third annual concert, a stellar lineup of musicians are volunteering their time, led by five-time Grammy winner Michael McDonald and his family. Local luminaries include multi-instrumentalist Gene Parsons, formerly of the Byrds, bassist David Hayes of Van Morrison fame and guitarist Alex de Grassi. Shows are April 14 at 7 p.m. and April 15 at 2 p.m. at the Mendocino College theater in Ukiah.
Adventist Health Ukiah Valley and FMEMC need the support of our Sonoma County community to make our family medicine teaching program a sustainable success. This support could be as simple and enjoyable as joining us in Ukiah for a performance by musical legends. For more information and to buy tickets, visit www.ruralhealthrocks.com.