Skip to Main Content
Idaho State University

Family Medicine Rural Training Track Expansion Aims to Bring New Physicians to Idaho

December 12, 2018 - POCATELLO, ID

The Family Medicine Residency Program at Idaho State University (ISU) has been working to address the shortage of primary care physicians in Idaho and is continually looking for ways to expand. There is a dire need for these physicians in Idaho, especially in the rural areas of the state. Earlier this year, ISU proposed a new rural residency track, allowing a resident to spend his or her first year at the base site in Pocatello, and then move on to spend their last two years in Rexburg.

In October, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) Residency Review Committee approved accreditation for a residency spot in Rexburg, in order to boost the number of rural physicians training in the state. ISU hopes to add a second spot in the next few years. ISU also secured funding from the State Board of Education and the Idaho Legislature to cover 30 percent of the costs associated with training a Rexburg Rural Training Track (RTT) resident.

One new resident will start the RTT in June of 2019 with their first year in Pocatello and years two and three at Fall River Family Medicine and Urgent Care in Rexburg. Dr. Austin Gillette, the site director, is an ISU alumni, as is Dr. Kelly Dustin, one of the core faculty. Rachel Gillette is the site-coordinator in Rexburg, all three individuals were hired specifically for this endeavor.

The new resident will also work in three training hospitals through their three years of training: Madison Memorial Hospital in Rexburg, Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello, and Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. These hospitals provide support to residents with medical teachers, financial support, support staff, and in other, more difficult to measure ways such as providing meals, sleep rooms, and involving the residents in quality improvement and patient safety initiatives. These initiatives are part of the ACGME requirements, for both in and out patient training.

The Rexburg RTT project has been in the works for quite some time. Dr. Kelli Christensen, associate program director of the base program, rural GME director and clinical associate professor for the Family Medicine Residency Program at ISU expressed her excitement, stating “the medical community has been quite supportive and excited for this.”

Because of the timing of the review process, interest in the RTT starting rising before it was accredited. That interest has heightened since the accreditation was announced. Twenty two interviews have been scheduled and of those, thirteen are already completed. “A standard rule of thumb is to interview 7-10 applicants per residency slot. …we are very comfortable that there are plenty of strong candidates,” Christensen adds.   

ISU’s mission is to train physicians for rural medicine, with the hope that these residents will remain in Idaho to practice. The Rexburg rural training track program was intentionally designed with the goal to have graduating residents stay within rural Idaho. Christensen says, “We will call it a success if they stay within the rural northwest, but it would directly meet our mission if they stay in Idaho.”

Since its creation 25 years ago, the ISU Family Medicine Residency has graduated 130 physicians, half of whom are now practicing in Idaho. These graduates provide care for 120,000 Idahoans. “Right now, we’re looking to expand to help meet the primary care workforce needs of the state and this accreditation step is an important milestone,” Rex Force, vice president for health sciences at ISU, says. “We want to develop this rural residency pathway in Rexburg, and expand our base program in Pocatello. There is exceptional need for more primary care physicians in this state.”

The ISU Family Medicine Residency program has other plans for expansion over the next 10 years, including adding a second rural residency program and expanding the base ISU Family Medicine Residency by two seats.