Family Medicine Residency Program allows residents to experience the challenges and rewards of public health

Friday, March 31, 2006

In 1985, Northeast Texas was critically short of physicians who practiced family medicine. Residents of many small towns and rural areas had a difficult time finding affordable, basic health care, whether provided by private physicians or public health care clinics.

The Family Medicine Residency Program at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler accepted its first residents that year. Since then, 104 family physicians have graduated from the three-year residency program. And more than half of these doctors now practice family medicine in East Texas.

As part of their medical training, residents participate in diverse public health-related activities. They treat children at the St. Paul’s Pediatric Medical Clinic in Tyler and both children and adults at the Northeast Texas Public Health Department. They participate in restaurant inspections conducted by local governments and spend a day with an animal control officer.

All of these activities help the family medicine residents understand the crucial role public health plays in the overall health of the community. Once these doctors complete their residencies, they will treat many people with chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. So they need to understand the importance of preventive medicine and appreciate their role in promoting public health. These doctors are on the front lines of health care delivery. They need to know how to report and control epidemics and how to conduct surveillance for serious infectious diseases.

Finally, providing residents with experience in public health helps to fulfill part of UTHSCT’s mission: delivering excellent patient care and community health.

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