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Meeting Wyoming's Health Care Needs

Volume 13, Number 2 | January 2012
By Pat Wolfinbarger

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Dr. Ron Malm, faculty member, and Robin Hallman, resident. The University of Wyoming has long been committed to educating new physicians and improving health care services in the state. Recent changes at the Casper Family Medicine Residency Center (FMRC) have only strengthened the university’s dedication.

In an effort to enhance medical education opportunities for physician residents in Natrona County, UW re-established its own clinic last summer for Casper patients seeking medical care. Previously, the Casper FMRC had been affiliated with Community Health Center of Central Wyoming.

The university operates a similar center in Cheyenne.

“The residency programs are key elements of UW’s commitment to the Casper and Cheyenne communities. We recognize our responsibility to provide high-quality medical care for the citizens of Wyoming’s two largest cities and to offer first-rate training for doctors pursuing careers in family medicine,” says UW Provost Myron Allen.

David A. Driggers, director of medical education in the UW College of Health Sciences, credits Allen, President Tom Buchanan and Vice President of Administration Doug Vinzant for finding funds to support the new clinical arrangement in Casper. “There’s also been incredible support for the Casper clinic from the dean of Health Sciences, the Board of Trustees and the Casper community,” he says.

In the first three months following the transition, Driggers says the Casper clinic registered 5,000 patients and was seeing about 2,000 outpatients a month.

Annually, the Casper and Cheyenne centers each see about 30,000 outpatients and deliver about 170 babies. The Casper center is home to 24 resident physicians, while Cheyenne is home to 18. During their three-year residency, physicians also serve in hospitals and clinics, locally and throughout the state, to provide “seamless care to underserved members of their communities” and gain the necessary experience before becoming certified physicians, says Driggers.

“Over the past 30 years, about 350 board-certified family physicians have graduated from the residency programs, with nearly a third ultimately staying in the state and about two-thirds in the Rocky Mountain region,” Driggers says. UW also offers medical education through its affiliation with the Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho (WWAMI) Medical Education Program, maintained by the University of Washington School of Medicine.

The ultimate goal of UW’s medical education efforts, says Driggers, is to produce more primary care providers for the state. In addition to contributions from the residency programs, WWAMI recently expanded to 20 medical students per year. Data show that 70 percent of UW medical students return to practice in the Cowboy State after completing a residency, with more than a third working as family doctors.

“I think we’re doing what the state wants,” Driggers says of UW’s medical education efforts and community health care services.

 

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