HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Forrest General Hospital will begin its first ever residency program this fall.
"What we needed to look at in south Mississippi is how to increase the size of the primary care base," said Forrest General CEO Evan Dillard.
"I really think this is one of the most significant things that has happened in the medical community in Hattiesburg in the last 10 or 15 years," said residency program director Dr. Eric Hale.
The family medicine residency program will have six students- all natives of the south Mississippi area- who will learn under physicians over the next three years.
"We were very, very happy to have all of the folks be regional," said Dillard.
The need for this type of residency program is greater than one might imagine, especially for the Hattiesburg area.
"If you look at Hattiesburg alone, over 25 [family] physicians will be beyond retirement within the next seven years," said Hale.
"Do the people living in this region have enough access to primary care? And it's a given fact they don't," said Dillard. "Mississippi, and our part of Mississippi especially, is heavily under-served."
Receiving the accreditation for this program was a four year process, and program directors say the selection process of students ended up being a perfect match.
"I don't think they can get a better training than they're going to get at Forrest General," said residency director Mikell Chatham. "We provide world class care, and we will likewise provide world class education for these doctors."
Research shows that 60 percent of residents will stay within an 80 mile radius of where they complete their residency, so the benefits of having a program here at home will not only be good for the hospital but the surrounding communities as well.
"Family physicians are the ones that care for 90 percent of the patients out there," said Hale. "Without primary care, the specialists will have a hard time practicing. You won't attract specialists if you don't have a good primary care base."
The medical centers in Jackson and Tupelo are the only other hospitals that have a similar residency program, which trains both allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO) students.