Kaiser Permanente has earned accreditation for its planned Santa Rosa Medical Center Family Residency Program, paving the way for the first group of residents to enter the program in July 2014.

The residency program was developed as part of a broader effort by health care providers to attract and retain more physicians to the region to counter national shortages. Accreditation comes from the Family Medicine Residency Review Committee of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

The new three-year residency aims to provide high-quality medical education and train six physicians a year for a total of 18 residents by 2017, expanding the number of primary care physicians being trained in Sonoma County. That will begin to address a projected need for up to 200 new primary care physicians in the North Bay over the next few years, as much of the physician workforce retires, according to Kaiser. 

In addition to retiring physicians, the Affordable Care Act will deliver scores of new patients to the health care system, underscoring the need for an adequate workforce to deal with the influx. With the passage of health care reform, a much broader emphasis has been placed on preventive, primary care to avoid costly emergency care and to improve upon the antiquated fee-for-service model, health officials have said.

“The Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Medical Center -- with its patient-centered focus, commitment to primary care, and its integrated care model -- is an ideal place to train the next generation of family medicine physicians,” Dr. Walt Mills, a family medicine physician and residency program director, said in a statement. 

Kaiser's efforts to bring physicians to the region will augment those of Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa’s three-year family medicine residency program, an affiliate of UCSF, which trains 36 physicians per year, with 12 graduating each year. Sutter’s program also works in conjunction with the Santa Rosa Community Health Centers, where residents typically focus on outpatient care.

Kaiser said it will continue its involvement in the ongoing Sutter Santa Rosa Family Medicine Residency Program, providing faculty and rotations. Going forward, both organizations plan to collaborate on faculty development, curriculum, and conferences in the development of the new Kaiser program.Other residency programs in the region

Similar efforts are also afoot elsewhere in Northern California, with Kaiser's Solano and Sacramento region announcing a similar partnership with Drexel University with the same goal of boosting the physician workforce in those counties. This summer, as many as 16 third-year medical students from Drexel's Philadelphia-based medical school will begin a year of clinical rotations at Kaiser Permanente medical centers in Vallejo, Sacramento, South Sacramento and Roseville.

In Sonoma County, residents will be trained in adult medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, sports medicine, surgery, behavioral medicine, geriatrics, emergency medicine and sub specialties. Kaiser Santa Rosa is already home to podiatry and ob/gyn residents, as well as family-medicine residents rotating from the Sutter Santa Rosa Family Medicine Residency Program, along with numerous medical students and pharmacy residents.

“We are now a center of medical education, and our new Family Medicine Residency Program will continue to make us a major teaching facility,” said Dr. Kirk Pappas, physician-in-chief at the Kaiser's Santa Rosa Medical Center.

Still other efforts in Sonoma County have transpired over the past two years to attract primary care providers. In 2011, Santa Rosa Community Health Centers became one of eight health centers in the country to launch a nurse practitioner residency program, with similar stated goals of being able to offer primary care to as many residents as possible.

In Solano and Sacramento counties, Kaiser is bolstering an existing partnership with Drexel, which has a Sacramento campus. Pre-med students from Drexel have already had opportunities with Kaiser through a 10-month physician shadowing program that began in March 2011. Drexel expanded its Interdepartmental Medical Science program to the region, the first time it was taught outside Philadelphia, which is home to Drexel University’s College of Medicine.