MANATEE -- Amid projections of a doctor shortage in Manatee and Sarasota counties over the next decade, Sarasota Memorial Hospital announced Tuesday it is starting an internal-medicine residency program.
Hospital officials said they are finalizing an affiliation agreement with Florida State University, with initial plans to fill as many as 10 new residency slots by July 2017, according to a Sarasota Memorial Health Care System news release.
It will take several million dollars and at least two years to establish the curriculum, infrastructure and medical staff faculty needed to win final approval from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education to start the residency program, Dr. Steve Taylor, Sarasota Memorial's chief medical operations officer, said in the release.
Manatee Memorial Hospital views the decision as a positive one, Vernon DeSear, a hospital spokesman, said Tuesday.
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"We feel it will be beneficial to our community to have an additional residency program," DeSear said. "With the current shortage of physician specialists, it is very important to secure commitments from doctors currently in our graduate medical education program. We hope to keep these graduates in the region to address the needs of our expanding population."
Manatee Memorial currently has a residency program for doctors of osteopathic medicine through Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Lakwewood Ranch but there is not a non-osteopathic physician residency in Sarasota or Manatee, said Kim Savage, a Sarasota Memorial Hospital spokeswoman.
Taylor said the residency program will be a shot in the arm for the whole hospital.
"It's common knowledge that when you have graduate medical education, it pushes everyone to be at the top of their game," Taylor said. "Everyone tries to push to higher levels of excellence. The faculty doesn't want to make rounds and have residents know more than they know."
Taylor is convinced Sarasota could face a doctor shortage in 10 years without the residency.
"Here in Sarasota, we have a good level of staffing in all the major specialities, but we are concerned about primary care and about the aging of our physician workforce," Taylor said. "We could always use more primary-care docs."
Florida's shortage of doctors will grow to 7,000 physician specialists by 2025, according to the first-ever study of physician supply and demand, which was commissioned by the Teaching Hospital Council of Florida and Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida and released Tuesday.
The predicted shortfall spans 19 specialties, with key areas of need in psychiatry, general surgery, rheumatology and thoracic surgery, the study found.
Sarasota Memorial already provides education to third- and fourth-year Florida State University medical students. The Internal Medicine Residency Program would take that training one step further, creating Sarasota's first residency program for new physicians graduating from medical schools, Taylor said.
"Physicians tend to stay where they have completed residency," Taylor said. "That's why we think having a residency here is a good idea."
Once approved by the ACGME, the program will allow residents to undergo three years of training in internal medicine at Sarasota Memorial, with inpatient and outpatient rotations in cardiology, pulmonology, infectious diseases, gastroenterology, critical care and elective sub-specialties. After earning their medical degrees, all physicians must complete a residency program to apply for a license and privileges to practice medicine in the United States.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.