How Resident Doctors Could Change Jefferson County


You’ve heard it before. Jefferson County ranks among the three least healthy counties in Oregon.

The county’s low doctor-to-patient ratio puts a bad mark on our report card.

A new residency program promises to bring doctors to the region and more.

Now the county is a shortage area for medical professionals. Counties are rated on a range from excellent, 6, to horrible, 26.

“Anything over 15 or 16 is pretty damn underserved,” said Dr. Rob Ross, director of studies and research at St. Charles. “Jefferson and Crook counties rank between 16 and 18, depending on the year.”

Ross used those sorry numbers when he and Dr. Joe Skariah, director of the family medicine residency program at Oregon Health Sciences University, applied for grants to start the first centered medical residency program. in Madras.

And it happens.

Resident doctors at home

St. Charles announced the Three Sisters Rural Track program in 2020. The first actual participants in the program will report to Madras in July 2025.

Although it may seem like a long way off, a resident has been here before as a pilot. “It helps our nurses and doctors get used to what it’s like to have residents,” said program director Dr. Jinnell Lewis.

Last June, Dr. Michelle Scheurich spent three weeks in Madras as part of a family medicine internship.

“It was interesting because I’m the first resident to be there in a while,” Scheurich said.

St. Charles Madras welcomes medical students all the time. Residents bring something different to the table

“Medical students are students. Residents are physicians,” says Scheurich. Medical students go through the process of diagnosis and treatment recommendation like an exercise. Residents are board-certified physicians who assess, prescribe medications, and treat patients under the supervision of the attending physician.

Scheurich says his residence in Madras was rich in education. “I’m excited about the rural track that exists. I think St. Charles Madras has a lot to offer residents. Over the next two years, Madras will accommodate two to three residents per year.

Setting up the program

Lewis still works part-time as a doctor and spends the rest of his time building the program.

“This is the next step from teaching medical students to teaching residents,” said Lewis, who has practiced in Madras for the past eight years and has always been interested in teaching. “I never thought this could be possible in Madras when I moved here.”

She makes it possible. She is in the process of getting the program accredited. Then next year around this time, she starts recruiting doctors who will spend two years of their family medicine residency in Madras. Residents spend their first year at OHSU in Portland and the final two years on the rural rotation in Madras.

In the first year, the program will accommodate up to six residents. In year two, with freshmen and sophomores, the program will have up to 12 city residents.

Lewis says Madras exposes residents to a variety of patients they may not see in equal numbers in other rural communities, “with the diversity of Madras with the indigenous population of Latinx and Warm Springs.”

The Three Sisters program incorporates the Indian Health Service Clinic, as well as Mosaic Medical and St. Charles Madras. Doctors from the Madras Medical Group will also teach in the hospital program.

What Madras offers locals

In 2023, newly graduating doctors across the country will apply for residency. Those seeking a family medicine residency may consider Madras. Besides the obvious attractions of sunshine and recreational opportunities, Madras is close to Portland with its sophisticated specialty services, and the program is run by OHSU, ranked by US News & World Report as the best teaching hospital in Oregon. “When a program is affiliated with a large educational institution like OHSU,” Ross said, “you tend to attract high-quality applicants.” Randy Jasa, who runs the St. Charles Family Care Clinic in Madras, is proud to see the residency program come to Madras. “OHSU has had good experience in training medical students. They want us to train their residents,” he said. “I think that says a lot about our doctors here.”

The program provides more than doctors

With experience running a medical residence in Klamath Falls, Ross says a medical residence can reinvigorate a town. “You attract people who have a pretty good income, and they come with partners and family and friends who tend to be very educated and committed people.” Ross says these family members can sit on boards and open businesses like restaurants, cafes, a dentist or law firms. Lewis and Ross say the residency will increase and strengthen connections between medical resources in central Oregon.

“When you develop a training program,” Ross said, “that requires hospitals and clinics to hire specialists to do one clinic a week or one a month.”

Studies show that resident doctors tend to set up their practice within 50 to 70 miles of where they were trained.

Dr. Scheurich grew up and studied in urban areas, but was convinced to live in a small town when she attended Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, New Hampshire. She knows she will settle in a small town. “I love wide open spaces and beautiful mountains,” Scheurich said. “I could potentially live in Madras.”

Pat Kruis is a reporter for The Madras Pioneer and can be reached at Pioneer at 541-475-2275 or by email at [email protected]. This article is used with permission from Pamlin Media Group. Learn more about Oregon’s largest source of independent local news at pamplinmedia.com.

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