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The inaugural class of Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa’s Family Medicine Residency program is underway, launching this month with six medical students who will rotate through the program and graduate in 2021.

Based at Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Medical Center, the residency program follows a July 1 to June 30 academic year, said Dr. Tricia Hiserote, director of the program and a Kaiser family medicine physician.

When the first class of physicians complete their residency as primary care physicians, they will be helping fulfill an area of medicine experiencing a national shortage.

“It really is good for the whole country, even though, yes, we do want them to stay here,” Hiserote said, noting statistics show 60 percent tend to stay where they trained. “But it really is about educating primary care physicians, no matter where they land.”

Three of the six new residents are California natives, two are from New York and one is from Colorado.

“We worked very hard to recruit a class of residents that reflect the diversity of Sonoma County, and I think we’ve achieved that,” she said, describing the process as a litmus test, given the timing of the selection process. “Our first week of interviews for the brand new program was the week of the fires.”

Since Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Medical Center was evacuated at the time, the interview process took place at a hotel in San Francisco over the course of two weeks, she said.

The Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Family Medicine Residency program was approved in February 2017 by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, according to a May 8, 2017, story in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

The family medicine residency program for Santa Rosa has been in the works since 2010, according to the previous reporting, and was initially planned to begin in 2014, along with Kaiser’s Napa-Solano residency. Napa-Solano began as scheduled at Kaiser’s Napa-Solano medical centers and graduated its first class last year.

Kaiser Permanente’s Northern California Family Medicine Residency program also encompasses its San Jose Medical Center, Hiserote said.

“We launched (with San Jose) this year and learned a lot about what did and didn’t go well at Napa-Solano,” Hiserote said. That residency resulted in four of the six graduates remaining at Kaiser — three locally and one at a different medical center within the system.

Hiserote said she also learned the importance of marketing and recruiting efforts for a new residency program. She held several off-site presentations, bringing in an array of stakeholders across Kaiser’s medical centers to explain the purpose of residency program.

She also conducted a series of surveys, asking questions such as what a physician in the 21st century needs to know that a 20th century physician doesn’t.

Santa Rosa’s new program also emphasizes integrative medicine, Hiserote said.

“We’ve affiliated with the University of Arizona’s integrative program,” she said. “We have a longitudinal curriculum that our residents will receive all three years.” That includes a mix of Western and alternative medicine to provide better care for patients, while still being true to Kaiser Permanente’s evidence-based care, she said.

Next year, Kaiser Permanente will open its first medical school in Pasadena, California. The medical center will be the first in the state, not overall, Hiserote noted.

“They were in the same position as we were, as far as starting a new program,” she said, “where we can maximize innovation and teaching, and not rely on what (already) has been done.”

Case in point: The new medical school’s classrooms will not be traditional. “They will have open classrooms that focus on learning and doing,” she said, adding there will be no cadaver labs. “They will be utilizing technology and 3D technology with virtual reality.”

Recruitment for the new medical school in Pasadena will begin once it’s accredited, which will likely be in the fall, she said.

Contact Cheryl Sarfaty at cheryl.sarfaty@busjrnl.com or 707-521-4259.

CLARIFICATIONS, July 20, 2018: Kaiser Permanente operates the residency program and that Santa Rosa facility. The new program emphasizes integrative medicine, not "integrative and lifestyle medicine."