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UW Dean Praises Charlie Huff’s Legacy

June 8, 2015

Dr. Charlie Huff, the founder of the University of Wyoming Family Medicine Residency Program in Casper, leaves behind an incredible legacy of medical education in Wyoming, according to University of Wyoming College of Health Sciences Dean Joe Steiner.

Huff, who died this spring at age 89, was the driving force in the 1970s to bring a program to Wyoming to train physicians in multiple disciplines such as obstetrics, pediatrics, internal medicine and women’s health. The program director of the Casper residency from 1976-1985, Huff hired a full complement of faculty members to oversee the first class of resident physicians. Today, the Casper program graduates eight residents each year.

“Family practice was not a well-known specialty at the time,” says Steiner, the first pharmacy faculty member at the Casper program. “The focus on family was a new concept, to think about treatment as it impacts the entire family. Charlie understood that this new way to deliver care would greatly benefit the patient.”

Huff’s approach to family medicine included more than faculty and resident physicians. To provide a comprehensive academic curriculum and a strong health care model, Huff hired a physician’s assistant, pediatrician, psychiatrist and pharmacist, as well as a billing and nursing staff.

“Charlie really understood the benefits of an interdisciplinary health care team,” says Steiner. “He brought us all together and told us to make it work, to pool our resources and use our expertise to push the program forward.”

Led by Huff, the Casper residency program expanded to include rural health rotations, physician assistant rotations, a pharmacy education program and other health care professional rotations.

Patient numbers at the Casper program have increased by the thousands in the last 35 years, with the first patient count in 1977 at just a few hundred. Today, 10,000 patients receive care at the Casper program every year, and the staff relies heavily on the multidisciplinary approach Huff established to provide excellence in health care and medical education.

“We are training doctors to care for the varied and rural needs of Wyoming citizens,” says Steiner. “Charlie’s team-based approach fits in perfectly with the way we deliver medicine now. He was a man ahead of his time.”

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