Most Eastern Washington counties have fewer than 10 board-certified pediatricians caring for the thousands of children and young adults who live there. Five of those counties have no pediatricians at all, according to the American Board of Pediatrics.
A new pediatric medical residency in Spokane will help.
Washington State University Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital are launching Eastern Washington’s first pediatric medical residency, which provides medical school graduates with the advanced and specialized training to become licensed pediatricians.
WSU President Kirk Schulz calls the new program “an outright game-changer.”
That’s because medical residents have a tendency to stay on and practice in the communities where they receive their training. Right now, Washington’s two existing pediatric residency programs are on the west side of the state.
“Ultimately, the win here is that we have more pediatricians for our communities, improving access for many more children and their families,” said Dr. Mike Barsotti, who oversees inpatient pediatric services for Providence across Eastern Washington and is president of the Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
It’s important to have pediatricians in a community because they specialize in caring for the physical, emotional and social needs of children, which are often quite different than the needs of adults, Barsotti said. Pediatricians also diagnose and treat diseases.
Dr. Christian Rocholl, a pediatric emergency physician at Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, will serve as program director for the new residency.
He said a residency program tends to improve care in two ways. The first is simply having more doctors available to spend time with patients. The second is that the experienced physicians who are teaching residents stay current with all new research and care protocols. “In order to teach, you need to be well-educated yourself,” he said.
A pediatric residency in Eastern Washington has been a long time coming, Dr. Rocholl added.
“Nineteen years ago when I interviewed for a pediatric emergency room job, I was told there was going to be a pediatric residency program here,” he recalled. “People have been discussing it and working on it in the background for a very long time.”
Dr. Barsotti added that many physicians and community members deserve thanks for making the longtime goal a reality.
The three-year pediatric residency program will admit six new residents each year, for a total of 18 resident physicians at a time once the program is fully implemented. The first group of medical residents should begin training in summer 2024. Other details of the program are still being developed.
Both Dr. Barsotti and Dr. Rocholl noted that in most respects, Spokane and Eastern Washington are fortunate. The region offers medical education, primary care residencies aside from pediatrics, and a comprehensive children’s hospital.
Now WSU and Providence, working with healthcare professionals throughout the region, will help develop the next generation of pediatricians for Eastern Washington.
Published in partnership with Providence and Washington State University.