Garcia (pictured left) and Wojciehowski (pictured right), who are both in the Rural Medical Education Program, are the first two students accepted into the Integrated Family Medicine Residency Program.

Reilly Wojciehowski and Holly Garcia, fourth-year University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford medical students, will have a more direct path to becoming family medicine physicians in Rockford thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois.

The new Integrated Family Medicine Residency Program will recruit 10 UICOMR medical students to receive additional clinical experiences in family medicine and obstetrics, as well as mentoring and a stipend to help defray educational costs. After graduation from medical school, these students enter the University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford Family Medicine Residency Program and spend the next three years training at UI Health Mile Square Health Center-L.P. Johnson Rockford and UW Health SwedishAmerican Hospital.

Garcia and Wojciehowski, who are both in the Rural Medical Education Program, are the first two students accepted into the Integrated Family Medicine Residency Program.

“Northern Illinois has too few primary care physicians for its population,” says Joseph Garry, MD, head of the UICOMR Department of Family and Community Medicine. “By recruiting our best-educated UICOMR medical students to stay in Rockford and enter our Family Medicine Residency Program, we hope to improve access to high-quality health care in our region.”

Nationally, 61 percent of residency program graduates practice medicine in the region where they completed residency training. While the UICOMR Family Medicine Residency Program has trained family physicians for more than 50 years, too few recent graduates of the program stay to practice in Northern Illinois.

“We compete with 745 other family medicine residency programs in the U.S. to get top students into our program,” says Rhonda Verzal, MD, director of the UICOMR Family Medicine Residency Program. “By offering incentives for current Rockford MD students through the new Integrated Family Medicine Residency Program, we are creating a pipeline of well-prepared physicians to complete residency training right here in Rockford.”

The IFMRP is a competitive fourth-year medical school experience. After completing a summer orientation, participants will participate in a longitudinal ambulatory clinic experience working with a mentor at the Mile Square Health Center in Rockford, a Federally Qualified Health Center that serves the uninsured and underinsured patients. They will also benefit from an additional enhanced rotation in obstetrics and family medicine at UW Health SwedishAmerican Hospital during this year. Those that remain in good academic standing will be ranked to match by the UICOMR Family Medicine Residency Program.