Physicians have always been at the heart of HCA Healthcare – two of our three founders were physicians. To make sure our physicians, residents and fellows are prepared for their careers and trained on the latest medical approaches, HCA Healthcare invests heavily in graduate medical education (GME) programs. During the burgeoning COVID-19 pandemic, we welcomed 1,842 new residents and fellows on July 1, 2020. Dr. Michael Cuffe, president of HCA Healthcare’s Physicians Services Group, details why physicians are needed in medicine more than ever…
By: Dr. Michael. S. Cuffe, President of HCA Healthcare’s Physician Services Group
Each year at this time, we welcome our newest physicians to HCA Healthcare’s Graduate Medical Education (GME) program. In our largest class yet, over 1,800 residents and fellows will join us this summer, following in the footsteps of the 1,280 graduates who came before them. More than a rite of passage, this handoff demonstrates our commitment to addressing the needs of all patients.
According to the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), our nation continues to face critical shortages of doctors, possibly amounting to 122,000 in just the next 10 years. With this staggering deficiency in mind, we began growing our GME programs some five years ago. I don’t think any of us could have imagined that in such a short period of time we would become the country’s largest sponsor of GME training. I could not be more proud of our residents, fellows, program directors and physicians – frankly everyone on the GME and hospital teams.
In addition to training more residents and fellows, we’ve expanded our training to 279 programs offered at 58 teaching hospitals across the United States. This year, we’ve added three new radiology resident programs and several new specialties, including hematology/oncology and vascular surgery – to ensure we can meet the growing needs of our patients. Beginning in March, those needs included responding to a global pandemic.
Much has been rightly said of heroic doctors, nurses and care teams who have had to quickly respond and adapt to the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) across the world. And now, our new residents and fellows join these ranks in an unprecedented trial by fire that has resulted in the learning experience of a lifetime.
Our experiences with COVID-19 in early hot spots in California have provided real-time data to predict the level and severity of further outbreaks. With this information, HCA Healthcare has developed tools to make appropriate plans for existing ICU beds, possible room conversions and equipment needed.
This data is proving valuable to all of our healthcare providers, including our residents and fellows, many of whom are now supporting the effort. Stories are coming in from across our GME program that exemplify the sense of duty all of our healthcare professionals embrace with conviction and compassion.
Dr. Mihir Buch, a pulmonary/critical care fellow in his last semester at the Corpus Christi Medical Center, responded to the influx of COVID-19 patients at his facility by working with attending physicians to quickly learn vent and treatment strategies. “These last few months have been a mixture of blessings and hardships,” he said. “But it was a great learning experience… I became a physician to help people – this is what I signed up for.”
As I have said before, these difficult times demonstrate who we are as individuals, as an organization, and as a people. I know these times remind me of my personal decision to enter the medical profession.
So, please join me in congratulating our newest residents and fellows!
I can confidently say they are joining an incredible group of people all committed to the very ideals of patient care at its finest. My hope is that they experience, these next several years, what I did in my residency – the opportunity to make a real difference in this world with people you will refer to as friends for the rest of your lives.
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Nashville-based HCA Healthcare is one of the nation’s leading providers of healthcare services, comprising 186 hospitals and approximately 2,000 sites of care, including surgery centers, freestanding ERs, urgent care centers, and physician clinics, in 21 states and the United Kingdom.