LUMBERTON — The first group of graduates from Southeastern Health’s residency program were celebrated Friday.
The ceremony, which was held at the Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Events Center, recognized the 26 graduating residents who completed their residencies in either emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, or a traditional rotating internship.
“We are extremely excited and proud, yet humbled to present the first resident graduating class to the region,” said Dr. Patricia Matto, vice president of Medical Education. “Their sincere desire to improve themselves to better serve and care for their patients in this community cannot be overstated. Not only did they provide quality and compassionate health care, but they provided humanistic care to the community, especially during and after Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. We sincerely thank the many people who made this possible and the residents’ families for trusting us to teach the next generation of physicians.”
Since 2015, Southeastern Health and its affiliates have been a major clinical campus for Campbell University’s Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine. Residents in family medicine, internal medicine, and emergency medicine specialties began three-year or four-year residencies that year, and the traditional one-year rotating internship began last year.
“This first class represents a milestone for Southeastern Health, Campbell University and rural community hospitals,” said Joann Anderson, Southeastern Health president/CEO. “There is a huge deficit in providers for rural communities. This class marks the beginning of training individuals in our area who can provide hope for health care in the future. This is a success story for everyone involved in what started as a dream. This class has built a strong foundation for future classes.”
Honor Sanderford, administrative director for Southeastern Health’s Medical Education Department, is also the program coordinator for the traditional rotating internship. She said there are now 76 residents at different stages of their programs working at Southeastern Health.
“We want to train rural health physicians as that’s where the biggest need is in the U.S.,” Sanderford said. “Four of the residents who are graduating will be staying with Southeastern Health, two as hospitalists, one as an internist at the Gibson Cancer Center, and another as an emergency medicine physician in 2019.”
Residencies are where medical school graduates hone their skills to be independent physicians in a hospital or outpatient office setting. As well as learning from the doctors, the residents also have been providing additional care to the community.
“It’s exciting to be at the ground floor of what is an exceptional residency experience,” Sanderford said. “Working with rural health populations, you see a lot of disparities throughout the U.S. These residents have learned how to serve as a primary physician for all of the diagnosis they’d see in practice, rather than learning how to send patients to a specialist, which in some rural locations may be much farther away.”
Dr. Donald Morando, family medicine residency program director, has been working with residents at the Southeastern Family Medicine Residency Clinic, which Southeastern Health opened primarily so that medical residents could follow up with patients who have been discharged from the hospital but who do not have a primary care physician. Family medicine residents also complete rotations at the hospital. He said each family medicine resident sees about 1,700 patients over their three years.
“All I hear is positive feedback from the community,” Morando said. “This is a very bittersweet time for me, because this pioneer group of residents have been such a tremendous group of people. They’ve had camaraderie and been real close to each other. They’re constantly helping each other out. I couldn’t have asked for a better, close-knit group for our first cohort.”
Dr. Byron Ingram, 31, is a graduate of the internal medicine program. Originally from Trenton, he went to North Carolina A&T State University before going to medical school at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Carolinas Campus in Spartanburg, S.C. He will continue to practice in the region at a neighboring hospital.
“It was a trying but welcome task to help get the internal medicine residency program at Southeastern Health established,” Ingram said. “We were able to integrate into the community and also educate them about health care. Training in this community allowed us to become very efficient and competent in treating a wide array of pathologies. I’m glad that I had the opportunity to train in this community and glad the community was receptive to allowing us to take care of them.”
Family Medicine Resident Dr. Meredith Beeler, 29, of Akron, Ohio, will be joining Adventist Hospital in College Park, Md., after graduating. She graduated from Walsh University in Canton, Ohio, and went to medical school at West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg, Va.
“Our residency was challenging because it was new, but it was also exciting,” Beeler said. “There was a lot of pathology here to learn about, some of which I didn’t think I would ever see in my lifetime. Dr. Morando, our program director, was always very supportive, and all the other residents have been amazing.”
Dr. Boris Calderon is one of the internal medicine residents who has signed on to stay with Southeastern Health as a hospitalist. He received his undergraduate degree from Western Carolina and his medical degree from Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Virginia Campus in Blacksburg, Va.
Originally from Rochester, N.Y., Calderon has lived in Fayetteville since the early 1990s when he left the military as a medic. He spent 18 years as a paramedic in Cumberland County. He said he was glad to find a residency program, and now a job, so close to home.
“My wife is local, so this region is our home,” Calderon said. “During medical school I did rotations here, so it was a well-matched opportunity to do my residency here. It’s been an enjoyable experience.”
Some of the program’s residents and attending physicians were given special awards during the graduation dinner and ceremony. William Gartlan, DO, received the Emergency Medicine of the Year Award; Timothy Taylor, DO, Family Medicine Resident of the Year; Jonathan Blandford, DO, Internal Medicine Resident of the Year; Katherine O’Connell, DO, Traditional Rotating Internship Resident of the Year; Elizabeth Gignac, DO, Emergency Medicine Attending of the Year; Donald Morando, DO, Family Medicine Attending of the Year; Gerard Devine, MD, Internal Medicine Attending of the Year; Sid Hosseini, DO, Traditional Rotating Internship Attending of the Year; Sandra Landry, RN, Emergency Medicine Nurse of the Year; and Regina Scott, RN, Hospital Nurse of the Year.