UT Health Center and Valley Baptist partner up to develop psychiatry residency

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POSTED: Friday, February 1, 2013 - 3:02pm

UPDATED: Saturday, February 2, 2013 - 10:23am

A residency program in psychiatry is being developed at the Harlingen campus of the Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC) and will benefit from $400,000 provided by the Valley Baptist Health System, the two partners announced today. Education of residents and third- and fourth-year medical students at the RAHC in Harlingen is overseen by the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.

 

Several regional partners have agreed to support the psychiatry residency program, which will educate and train psychiatrists who are more likely to stay in the Valley because it is the site of their first practice experience. The nation has nearly 12 psychiatrists per every 100,000 population. In Texas the figure is 6.8 per 100,000. In the Valley, the state’s poorest region, the number is a stark 2.8 per 100,000.

 

Valley Baptist officials signed a memorandum of understanding to provide $400,000 for program development during state fiscal year 2013. Officials of the Rio Grande State Center and VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System are also committing to the development of a psychiatry training program in the Valley region.

 

Leonel Vela, M.D., M.P.H., regional dean of the RAHC, has worked with Kenneth Shine, M.D., executive vice chancellor for health affairs of the UT System, on development of residencies including psychiatry. “The psychiatry residency program will be very beneficial to our medical students,” Dr. Vela said. “Currently the medical students coming to the RAHC do not have psychiatry residents as mentors, and very important learning occurs by having residents as part of the teaching. Residents relate differently to medical students because many of them were medical students recently. They will add an important dimension to our teaching mission.”

 

Dr. Vela said the RAHC already has strong student clerkships and rotations in psychiatry, and having a residency program will strengthen that.

 

Since its opening in 2002, the RAHC has been the site of a three-year internal medicine residency program. The psychiatry residency program initiative includes collaboration between all of the UT entities in the region, including UT Brownsville, UT Pan American and the UT Houston School of Public Health Regional Campus in Brownsville.

 

The new program will build toward 18 residency positions in adult psychiatry and four positions in child and adolescent psychiatry, said Jason Schillerstrom, M.D., residency training director for psychiatry at the School of Medicine in San Antonio. Dr. Schillerstrom is facilitating the development of the new training program in the Valley.

 

The adult psychiatry residency is four years long while the child and adolescent residency is two. Valley Baptist will be the main residency site and its financial support will enable the hiring of training directors, one for adult psychiatry and one for child/adolescent psychiatry.

 

“We are very pleased to participate in this important residency program,” said Leslie Bingham, chief executive officer of Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville. “The Valley Baptist Behavioral Health Facility and our hospitals, along with other Valley facilities, will provide a training ground for the next generation of psychiatrists. It is our hope that some of them will stay to practice in the Rio Grande Valley, where there is a marked shortage of mental health providers.”

 

The goal is for the first class of five residents to begin the program in July 2015 and for the program to be at full capacity in July 2018, Dr. Schillerstrom said. “We’re hoping that the program is accredited by the ACGME (Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education) in the spring of 2014,” he said.

 

In addition to the training directors, the Department of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine is recruiting four full-time clinical faculty members for the RAHC program. “The agreement with Valley Baptist paves the way for and provides the needed funding for these recruitments,” said Pedro L. Delgado, M.D., professor and chairman of psychiatry in the School of Medicine.

 

The sparse psychiatrists in the Valley face enormous demand for their services. “Based on local data we estimate there are about 300,000 people with depression and anxiety, and we know that 60 percent to 70 percent of them have no health insurance,” said Joseph B. McCormick, M.D., vice president for South Texas programs at the Health Science Center. “We also know that the very high level of chronic disease, such as diabetes, is associated with increased levels of depression.”

 

In Cameron County, where the population exceeds 400,000, there is currently no board-certified child/adolescent psychiatrist, Dr. Schillerstrom said. Because training physicians develop relationships in the geographical areas where they do their residencies, many tend to practice in those areas once they are finished with their training period. Residency programs therefore may help alleviate provider shortages.

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