MANATEE -- A new partnership between Manatee Glens Hospital and the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine is expected to significantly expand mental health services in Manatee County, the hospital announced Wednesday.
The proposed psychiatry residency program, scheduled to start next summer, will be one of only seven such osteopathic programs in the country, according to Mary Ruiz, Manatee Glens president and CEO.
The first three residents, who will have completed three years of medical school, will begin a four-year residency in summer 2014 at Manatee Glens, a private behavioral health hospital and outpatient practice in Bradenton.
The program will add residents each year up to a total of 12, significantly augmenting the hospital medical staff of 17. Manatee Glens serves about 15,000 patients a year.
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Any student from any osteopathic medical program in the United States can apply. They will receive training in inpatient, outpatient, addictions and mental health treatments for schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. They will have the opportunity to experience all aspects of mental health care.
"It allows us to expand services to the community," Ruiz said. "Not only are we meeting the community's needs, we're putting the community on the national map."
Ruiz said the idea for the program was born a few years ago, after a Manatee Chamber of Commerce study cited a local shortage of physicians. "The study recommended establishing residency programs," Ruiz said.
LECOM students already spend a month studying psychiatry at Manatee Glens as part of their curriculum, according to Dr. Anthony Ferretti, assistant dean of clinical education at LECOM.
"Since 2006, we've rotated third-year students, and since 2007, fourth-year students have been doing specialty training," he said.
Ferretti praised the Manatee Glens staff, saying every student who has performed a rotation at the hospital the last several years has passed national exams.
"The doctors who work with our students are very good teachers," he said.
Ruiz and Ferretti say the new program will benefit the community.
"We'll be able to do our part to address the shortage of doctors and promote good doctors entering the field," Ruiz said.
Ferretti said the benefits will continue after student residencies end. "
Statistically, 60 percent of physicians stay in the area where they're trained," he said. "That's where the community benefits."
New doctors get to know the area and decide to stay.
"And they become the best citizens," he said.
The program is expected to cost about $1 million over the next three years, Ruiz said. "We're seeking grants from national organizations," she said, although the program will eventually be self-supporting.
The residency program was approved June 13 by the American Osteopathic Association, according to association spokeswoman Vicki Martinka.