Retention of docs, new residents helping curb family medicine workforce shortage in Greenfield

Baystate Franklin Family Medicine residents attend a simulation lab.

Baystate Franklin Family Medicine residents attend a simulation lab. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

By ANTHONY CAMMALLERI

Staff Writer

Published: 04-07-2024 3:01 PM

GREENFIELD — As it enters its third year, the Baystate Franklin Family Medicine Residency Program is welcoming four new doctors this summer and anticipates retaining three members of the original cohort to work at the hospital after they graduate, marking a significant stride toward filling the region’s family medicine workforce shortage.

Doctors Kassandra Jean-Marie of University of Massachusetts’ T.H. Chan Medical School, Tomas Reilly of the University of Limerick Medical School, Erin Trolley of Saint James School of Medicine, and Beth Wichowski of the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine will join Baystate’s team of physicians as resident doctors in July.

The three-year residency program gives new doctors hands-on experience seeing patients on a regular basis and the opportunity to practice family medicine within the hospital. It also allows young doctors, such as Dr. John Romano, who works for the Greenfield Health Department, the opportunity to better ingrain themselves in the community.

Upon completion of the program, resident physicians can then take the family medicine board certification exam and work as board-certified family medicine physicians. Of the first four doctors who arrived during the residency program’s launch in 2022, three — Doctors Romano, Rachel Anderson and Mmaserame Gaefele — have decided to continue their practice at Baystate Franklin Family Medicine after graduation. Gaefele, who joined as a second-year student, will graduate this year, while the others will graduate in 2025.

Baystate Franklin Medical Center and family medical practices throughout the region have faced significant staffing shortages in the last few years. Baystate Franklin’s 2022 Community Needs Assessment reports that in a regional survey of local public health officials, 72% of Franklin County respondents cited the limited availability of health care providers as the most pressing health issue facing their community.

“The limited availability of health care providers was already problematic prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has become acute since the onset of the pandemic,” the report states. This lack of providers has resulted in “long wait times, inability to get in to see one’s own doctor or forgoing service that is in short supply,” the report continues.

Baystate Franklin Family Medicine Residency Program Director Chandra Hartman said that on average, 60-70% of residency training program residents choose to work at the practice where they trained after graduating.

“We’re already seeing some of the benefits of the work and effort and money that has gone into building this program. The goal is to really increase and improve primary care in Franklin County, and I think we’re already doing that. It’s a really exciting program to be a part of,” Hartman said. “Hopefully, some number of our graduates will stay in the area and continue to care for patients in the community after graduation.”

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Dr. Robert Baldor, founding chair and professor for the University of Massachusetts Medical School-Baystate Department of Family Medicine, called the Greenfield program a “game-changer” and a “major positive force to engage the community” in Franklin County.

“While it has been stated that it takes a village to raise a child, I’ve come to realize that it takes a community to train a family physician,” Baldor said in a statement. “With the start of these clinicians this summer, the Greenfield Family Medicine Residency Program, led by Dr. Chandra Hartman, will be filled — completing a three-year start-up on schedule, despite the struggles of doing so during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Anthony Cammalleri can be reached at acammalleri@recorder.com or 413-930-4429.