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Kalispell Regional Healthcare

Family Medicine Residency of Western Montana

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Kalispell Regional Healthcare engaged as an active partner in the Family Medicine Residency of Western Montana in 2014, when it welcomed its first class of resident physicians. The program launched as a cooperative effort among the University of Montana and community hospitals to build a base of family physicians who are compassionate, clinically competent and motivated to serve patients and communities in the rural and underserved areas of Montana.

Timely Answers to Critical Issues

The Family Medicine Residency of Western Montana addresses a critical issue in Montana’s medical care picture.

At only two resident physicians per 100,000 population, Montana is at the bottom of state rankings for residents engaged in graduate medical education. With a quarter of the state’s active physicians at least 60 years old and likely to retire in five years, and more than a third of Montana’s family physicians practicing in the urban areas of Billings, Missoula or Great Falls, the need is great for new primary care doctors in our more rural areas.

The state’s only other residency program, the Montana Family Medicine Residency in Billings, carries 24 students at a time, with eight in each of three classes. Since its inception in 1998, almost 70 percent of the Family Medicine Residency graduates in Billings have remained in Montana. Statistically, medical professionals are highly likely to remain where their most recent training was completed.

With that in mind, Kalispell Regional Healthcare seized the opportunity to partner with the Family Medicine Residency of Western Montana program to help foster the next generation of highly trained, compassionate doctors prepared to care for Montana’s rural families.

Each resident is a practicing doctor completing his or her specialized training in the chosen field of family medicine. Aspiring physicians in the United States follow four years of college with four years of medical school, graduating with Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degrees, enabling them to be licensed as physicians. Those eight years are followed by residency programs designed to ensure doctors become competent to practice medicine, and to prepare them to practice in their areas of specialty. The Family Medicine Residency of Western Montana is three years in length. At completion, residents are eligible to sit for board certification exams.

Strength for Western Montana’s Medical Future

The Accrediting Commission on Graduate Medical Education accredited the Family Medicine Residency of Western Montana program in October 2012. The program also recently received its accreditation by the American Osteopathic Association for graduates with Doctor of Osteopathy degrees.

Each year, the program chooses 10 residents to admit into the training program statewide. Without significant contributions from practicing physicians, the program could not exist. A sizable network of faculty and community physicians from all specialties is engaged in educating the residents. This pool of contributors stands at more than 50 Missoula doctors and 30 Kalispell doctors. In Kalispell, a rotation of these preceptor physicians works continuously to train and provide oversight for our team of resident physicians. Learn more about our current residents.

Kalispell Site Director Justin Buls, MD, may be reached at (406) 758-2174. Learn more about the Missoula-based Family Medicine Residency of Western Montana.