St. Luke’s Wood River Emergency Department is one of a handful of rural ERs across the country staffed 24/7 by Board Certified Emergency Physicians. That distinction made it one of two Emergency Departments chosen from five WWAMI (WA, WY, AK, MT, and ID) states to be a partner with University of Washington’s Emergency Medicine Residency program.
There is a national shortage of board certified Emergency Medicine docs in rural areas. University of Washington School of Medicine (UWSOM), through its WWAMI program, has historically focused on exposing students and residents to practice in a rural environment, across the five-state region. This will be the first time the UW has expanded this focus to include Emergency Medicine – a specialty that has historically concentrated on training in high-volume urban centers. It will be one of the first programs of its kind nationwide.
Dr. Deb Robertson, in the Wood River Emergency Department, trained in urban areas. “The No. 1 challenge of practicing emergency medicine in a rural area is the distance between us and some specialty resources such as cardiology, critical care, neurosurgery, and trauma specialists,” Dr. Robertson said. “When these services are needed acutely, we face a clinical challenge of providing stabilizing medical services and a logistical challenge of getting the patients to the specialty services elsewhere such as in Twin Falls, Boise, or Salt Lake City.”
Brock Bemis, also a physician in the Wood River ED, attended UW School of Medicine as a WWAMI student from Idaho and completed his residency at the University of Utah. Dr. Bemis took on responsibility for the logistics of implementing the residency program. “Getting to do emergency medicine is rewarding and exciting, even more so in a rural setting similar to where I grew up – you can have a great life here, enjoying all the outdoor recreation, be involved in the community and take care of your neighbors,” he said. Brock went on to explain that “having the residency program will not only present a benefit to our community; it will act as a recruiting tool for rural emergency medicine across our state and the region.”
The residents will be third- and fourth-year senior Emergency Medicine residents who have completed nearly all of their post-graduate medical training. They will be in the Wood River Emergency Department during the busiest times of the year starting this holiday season. All of the St. Luke’s Wood River Emergency Physicians will be involved in teaching the residents and will be Adjunct Professors of the UWSOM.
St. Luke’s Wood River also participates in UW WRITE program which affords third-year medical students the opportunity to “intern” with physicians such as Dr. Dan Fairman, Dr. Frank Batcha and Dr. Richard Paris who are all Clinical Assistant Professors with UW. These students come from a rural environment in the WWAMI states, and it is hoped that they will get exposure to the exciting challenges of rural medicine and choose to someday return to “put out their shingle.”
Dr. Fairman praises the program for applying students’ knowledge and enthusiasm in a practical setting, allowing them to round out their skills with experiences that cannot be taught in a classroom setting. He believes the primary reason St. Luke’s Wood River provides a high-quality teaching and learning environment is because it offers an excellent level of care. “If you look at the training of the physicians practicing here you will see a high level of expertise, having come from top programs around the country,” he said.
St. Luke’s Wood River has recently been awarded numerous accolades, including:
Sandra Wurdemann works in the Communications and Marketing department at St. Luke's.