GARY — Several Northwest Indiana hospitals and health centers have come together to bring dozens of medical residents to the Region.
Leaders of the the new organization say it will bolster both medical education and care in Northwest Indiana. They signed a letter of intent Tuesday at Indiana University Northwest to form the consortium.
"Today is a great day for Northwest Indiana in terms of health care," said Pat Bankston, associate dean of the medical school campus at IUN. "The goal of this group was to ... increase the supply of physicians, which is woefully low, both nationally and in our state, but also to increase the quality of the health care."
Residencies are the post-graduate training doctors must undergo before they can be licensed to practice. The state soon will have matching funds available to start residencies.
Bankston came up with the idea for the project after watching his graduates leave the Region for training because Northwest Indiana lacks residency slots. It is expensive to establish and maintain residencies, so the consortium, based on a similar project in southwest Indiana, saves the partners on overhead costs.
Half of last year's graduating class from the medical school at IUN are doing their residencies in Illinois. The Class of 2019 could be the first to do post-graduate training in Northwest Indiana.
"Residents push not just education but the standard of medicine," said Dr. Alan Kumar, chief medical officer for Community Healthcare System. "The expectation of those in training is for exceptional care. That pushes physicians to provide better input to them, better feedback. That makes everyone perform at their best."
The consortium could support as many as 165 residents in such specialties as OB-GYN, psychiatry, general surgery and family, internal and emergency medicine.
The United States faces a shortage of more than 90,000 doctors by the year 2025, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. That organization also found that 68 percent of physicians end up practicing in the state where they did their residencies.
"If we keep 60 percent of them, we'll be happy," said Bob Krumwied, CEO of Merrillville-based Regional Mental Health Center. "This will help with supply. The number of psychiatrists graduating and doing residencies in Indiana is virtually zero."
Besides Community and Regional, the consortium's other partners are LaPorte Hospital, Methodist Hospitals, Porter Healthcare System, Community Healthnet, HealthLinc, Edgewater Behavioral Health Services and Porter-Starke Services.
"It's great to have more residencies so we can have more doctors in the area," said Ryan Scribailo, of Chesterton, a second-year medical student at IUN. "If I was accepted into a (local residency) program, I would definitely stay."