Letter: Ellensburg rural residency program helps train doctors

March 7, 2017

To the Editor:

Returning from attending the annual Northwest Rural Health Conference, which included the John Anderson Award for outstanding contribution to rural health in the Northwest, I read the Daily Record’s article about Drs. Anderson, Schmitt, and Wise and their service to Upper County communities. Residents in Upper County have been fortunate to have these fine doctors. The article commented on the difficulty attracting physicians to rural areas.

As mentioned, the new medical school at WSU may be helpful. Also, Pacific Northwest University in Yakima is as successful as any school in the country in producing primary care physicians. Additionally, Dr. Mark Larson coordinates an outstanding rural medicine experience in Ellensburg for University of Washington students. At the Rural Health Conference, I led a discussion about community involvement with family medicine residencies.

The lack of mention in the article of the Ellensburg rural residency program suggests a need for me to do a better job enhancing local awareness of this program. Upon graduation from medical school, some doctors — not enough to meet our country’s needs — choose the profession of family medicine. A few will then enter a three-year residency that focuses on rural medicine. There are only five slots for this purpose in Eastern Washington next year. Two of these are in Ellensburg, sponsored by Community Health of Central Washington.

Training family medicine doctors requires the involvement of the entire health care community. This includes local doctors of all specialties, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, physical therapists, and many more. Our hospital is very attentive to training health care providers of all fields, and is a major part of the residency experience.

Our resident physicians are remarkable people who have each chosen the opportunity to be part of a rural community over more lucrative, less demanding options. Our present group of young doctors includes Drs. Kathy Fosnaugh, Anna Elperin, Annaliese Stone, Jie Casey, Sherri Finn and Clint Thompson. This July, Drs. Fosnaugh and Elperin will leave to begin practice, and we will welcome two new doctors to Ellensburg.

Our program depends on support from the Kittitas County community. We appreciate any help and encouragement you can give these physicians during their time here. We in Ellensburg have an opportunity to help shape rural health care as doctors prepare to carry on the work which has been done so well by physicians such as Drs. Anderson, Schmitt, and Wise.

John Asriel, M.D

Site director, Central Washington Family Medicine Residency-Ellensburg, Ellensburg