CVPH residency program targets chronic New York primary care physician shortage

As the role of primary care providers (PCPs) shifts further to the center of the new health care structure, the need for additional PCPs grows. That’s especially true in the North Country, where a chronic PCP shortage will likely evolve into a crisis as the population ages and providers retire.

Three years ago, The University of Vermont Health Network – Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital (CVPH) in Plattsburgh, NY joined with the Larner College of Medicine and The University of Vermont Medical Center to build a Family Medicine residency program to address the Champlain Valley’s shortage of PCPs.

So far, this residency exceeds all of my expectations.

Stephen Winfield, MD

“Primary care providers are on the front line of health care and are often the best resource for managing a patient’s care, coordinating a variety of health care services and promoting their overall health and wellbeing,” says CVPH president and CEO Stephens Mundy.

“So far, this residency exceeds all of my expectations,” says Stephen Winfield, MD, a native of Prince Edward Island, Canada. Winfield is one of four members of the first class of CVPH Family Medicine residents – new doctors continuing their training at a hospital.

Winfield and fellow residents Ashley Bernotas, MD, Therese Ray, MD and Aaron Esterson, MD, are midway through the first of three years in the program. Ultimately, they will complete rotations in Emergency Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pediatrics, Cardiology, Orthopedics and Behavioral Health. They will also see patients in the CVPH Family Medicine Center in downtown Plattsburgh.

That diversity attracted Winfield to Family Medicine. “I like the idea of treating a patient who has injured his hand as well as someone who is living with chronic kidney disease, all in one day. I want to get to know people and develop relationships with my patients,” he says.

Professor John King, MD, former director of the UVM Medical Center’s Family Medicine Residency Program, was asked in 2013 to lay the groundwork for the new initiative. He said the Medical Center and the Larner College of Medicine were instrumental in providing support to the fledgling program. CVPH Residency Program Director Jose Lopez, MD, a clinical assistant professor, cited the network’s continued involvement in the program’s great start, especially in the residency’s loan repayment program, which has helped with recruiting.

Residents who complete the three-year program and stay to practice in the region will be eligible for a student loan relief incentive offered by CVPH, Adirondack Health in Saranac Lake, UVM Health Network – Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone, Canton-Potsdam Hospital in Canton-Potsdam, Massena Memorial Hospital in Massena and UVM Health Network – Elizabethtown Community Hospital in Elizabethtown. In addition, the UVM Health Network will match each hospital’s contributions.

Winfield says the quality of the people, excellent facilities, the community, the strong affiliation with UVM Medical Center – and, in particular, the personal attention he receives – have made his experience exceptional.

Patient response to Winfield and his colleagues has been equally positive. “They understand what we are doing – that we are here to improve their health.” Winfield said.