JEFFERSON — Ashe Memorial Hospital has ventured into new territory, embarking on a partnership with Campbell University’s Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine, located in Lillington.

Through the partnership, AMH will be a training site for Campbell University residents from Southeastern Health in Lumberton, Harnett Health in Dunn and Sampson Regional Medical Center in Clinton, according to Matthew Huff, Campbell University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine’s DIO and director of post-graduate affairs.

The first resident to participate is Dr. Daniel Hoffman. A 32-year-old from Seattle, Hoffman completed medical school at Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences’ College of Osteopathic Medicine in May 2017 and started his family medicine residency at Southeastern Health in July 2017. He is currently in the second year of his three-year family medicine residency. Hoffman said his goal is to practice in a rural area once he completes his residency.

The residents that come through AMH will be second-and third-year resident physicians in family medicine who will be practicing within the next two years, according to Huff.

Ashe Memorial Hospital Chief Executive Officer Laura Lambeth said Huff reached out to her to create the partnership because she had worked with Huff in the past.

“Matt reached out to me, because (we’re) one of the few hospitals in the state that has primary care and has (obstetrics) experience and are credentialed for (obstetrics),” Lambeth said. “I was thrilled, because we want to use this as a recruitment (tool) to bring new physicians into Ashe County.”

Huff said he chose AMH because the residents are going to get exceptional training.

“We want to try to get our residents to get experience delivering babies, providing a little bit of in-patient care and doing a wide range of clinical work, so they can practice in a resource-poor environment or a resource-rich environment and be qualified, feel like they can perform all the procedures and do all the things they need to do to take care of the community,” Huff said.

Hoffman started in Ashe County on Monday, July 2, and helped with two deliveries on his first day. He added that he has enjoyed his first week at the hospital and in the county.

“Everyone has been really welcoming,” Hoffman said. “Luckily, medicine is medicine no matter where you practice. Yes, there has been little differences in how things are run, but we’re still practicing medicine up here.”

Hoffman is working closely with Dr. Tyler Callahan, a physician at AMH, while he trains. Callahan said he sees himself as an extension of Hoffman’s faculty at Campbell University.

“I want him and the rest of the residents that come through to have a good experience and be able to see (what it’s like) when you’re allowed to do what you like to do,” Callahan said. “I feel like there are a lot of times, depending on where you do your residency, that you’re pigeon-holed into office-based family medicine, and you’re supposed to refer everything to your specialists.”

Callahan added that, in Ashe County, referring to specialists is not an easy thing.

“You have to take care of everything that comes in,” Callahan said. “I have the opportunity to show residents, ‘This is what you can do when you finish.’ It will promote family medicine in rural areas and excite more people to want to do it.”

Increased practices in rural areas is a goal for Huff and Campbell University as well. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, a person attending medical school only in the state of North Carolina has a 49 percent chance of staying in the state to practice. However, if the person does medical school and residency in the state, they have a 67 percent chance of staying.

North Carolina is ranked 29th in active physicians per 100,000 population compared to other states, according to the North Carolina Health Professions Data System. As of 2017, Ashe County only had 11 physicians per 10,000 population compared to the state average of 24.9 physicians and a national average of 25.8 physicians.

“There is a significant opportunity to improve access to care in Ashe County through training physicians,” Huff said in an email. “We hope this is the beginning of many new opportunities to bring physician training to Ashe County.”

So far, Huff is seeing the results in other areas of the state that he expected. In the first graduation class of Campbell University residents from Southeastern Health, nine of the 25 residents stayed in North Carolina to practice, according to Huff.

“That’s really encouraging,” Huff said. “You read the national data and see the studies and it anchors the strategy, but when you really start to see that actually working, it’s just really exciting. I’m so grateful to (AMH) for agreeing to participate in the training. It’s going to be a wonderful training experience for them and a great thing for the county.”

As chief executive officer, Lambeth added that her dream is to have primary care with obstetrics the first year and grow to add additional specialists and primary care residents in the years to come.

“We really want to use this as a recruitment mechanism for Ashe County,” Lambeth said. “Once you come here, stay in this community and interact with the lovely people that make up Ashe County, it’s hard to leave.”

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