Thanks to new federal funding, the University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford (UICOMR) will be able to enhance family medicine residents’ training in obstetrical procedures, thereby allowing them to provide more of the pregnancy-related services that are much-needed in rural and other medically underserved areas. The $2.3 million that will fund the program for the next five years comes from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Bureau of Health Workforce: Primary Care Training and Enhancement-Community Prevention and Maternal Health Program.
The new Structured Training for Rural Enhancement of Community Health in Obstetrics (STRETCH-OB) Program is a collaboration between UICOMR and five health care partners in Illinois: UW Health SwedishAmerican Hospital and Crusader Community Health in Rockford; Freeport Health Network in Freeport; Katherine Shaw Bethea Hospital in Dixon; and the Gibson Area Hospital and Health Services in Gibson City.
“The overall purpose of the program is to reduce poor maternal and birth outcomes in rural and underserved areas by increasing the number of Family Medicine physicians with high-quality, evidence-based obstetrical skills who practice in these areas,” says Joseph Garry, MD, head of the UICOMR Department of Family and Community Medicine.
The STRETCH-OB Program enrolled two resident physicians currently in their second year of the three-year UICOMR Family Medicine Residency Program: Ashton Hurley, MD, and Kandi Ogden-Moles, DO. Upon completion of the three-year residency program, the STRETCH-OB residents will be licensed as Family Medicine physicians and will have experience in inpatient obstetrics, including operative obstetrics.
Program director Beth Schleicher, MD, oversees the overall clinical implementation of the project and works with the health care partners in the provision of obstetrical training for STRETCH-OB residents. Dr. Schleicher is a UICOMR clinical assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology who practices at SwedishAmerican and the UI Health Mile Square Health Center – L.P. Johnson Rockford.
“The training will happen primarily at SwedishAmerican Hospital,” says Dr. Schleicher. “Our rural partners in Freeport, Dixon and Gibson City will also provide experiences for the STRETCH-OB residents in providing more comprehensive care to women in rural and underserved areas.”
To gain added experience in obstetrics, the STRETCH-OB residents take additional on-call duties for obstetrics, rotate with obstetricians for planned Cesarean deliveries and will deliver at least 100 babies before completing their residencies,” says Dr. Schleicher.
Each class of the three classes of Rockford Family Medicine Residency Program currently consists of seven residents. By January 2022, two more current residents will enter the program. Starting in July of 2022, a total of six residents will be enrolled in the program.
In some rural areas, family medicine physicians provide 100 percent of all obstetric care. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, by 2025, there is expected to be a national shortage of 4,930 obstetricians and 13,100 family medicine physicians. Specific to the Midwest, a shortage of 1,570 obstetricians and 2,360 family medicine physicians is estimated.
The College of Medicine Rockford serves all of Illinois but with a growing focus on rural Illinois. “This opportunity to build a program that directly serves the citizens of our state, while improving health care access in rural Illinois is a privilege for all involved in this program”, says Dr. Garry. “We are committed to excellence, innovation and collaboration and the STRETCH-OB program exemplifies the best of each of these attributes for the benefit of our citizens.”