BY BRIAN HEDGER
A man came into the emergency department at Methodist Hospitals Northlake in Gary recently with a deep cut to his face.
One of the first doctors he saw for treatment was Dr. Chris Richards, a resident physician from Northwestern University's McGraw Medical Center. Richards is spending part of his emergency medicine residency at Methodist in Gary thanks to a new agreement between the hospital's emergency department and Northwestern that was officially announced Wednesday.
The program, which will last at least five years, had its first group of residents begin working on July 1. The partnership provides the hospital with three emergency medicine residents a month, with each working 9 to 10 hour shifts for four weeks. A total of 33 residents are expected to participate each year.
"It's more hands-on for us here (at Methodist) that it is at Northwestern (Memorial Hospital) in Chicago," said Richards, whose residency runs through Northwestern Memorial. "There, you have a team of surgical residents who come down to see a patient all at the same time. Here, because we're the only residents right now who are part of the hospital, we're taking care of people initially and assisting the trauma surgeons by getting people stabilized for surgery."
The deal has benefits to both sides, said Dr. Geoffrey Bauer, Methodist's associate director of emergency services and a Northwestern graduate who initiated the talks that led to this agreement.
"It's a good match," Bauer said. "From our perspective, we gain a partnership from an institution that has a great reputation for excellence in medical education," Bauer said. "This allows us to continue working on some of the teaching and clinical education efforts that Methodist has been committed to doing, and to the future development of that aspect at Methodist."
The hospital is in the early stages of partnering with Indiana University School of Medicine Northwest as part of a long-term goal to become a teaching hospital that is associated with the school. IUN's medical school is a two-year program that hopes to become a four-year program. Students in four-year programs do rotations in teaching hospitals in the third and fourth years, which require partnerships with community hospitals like Methodist.
"Methodist's goal is to help develop a robust academic medical center in Northwest Indiana," Bauer said. "But that takes time, and you have to demonstrate that you are capable of doing it and are dedicated to it for the long term."
The hospital also will benefit from the new agreement by having more physicians in the ER who are able to see patients and speed up wait times, which have become excessive in most ERs across the country.
For Northwestern emergency medicine residents like Richards, a big benefit of the agreement is getting a unique ER experience. Methodist in Gary is a hospital that serves a predominantly minority patient base and also sees a larger number of "penetrating trauma" wounds, such as shootings and stabbings, than residents would likely see at Northwestern Memorial.
Bauer said the first experience with a group of residents went "even better than expected," and that residents interacted well with not only patients, but nurses and most attending physicians.
"This is an underserved community that has a lot of trauma, and that's attractive to an emergency medicine resident," said Dr. Michael McGee, medical director of emergency services at Methodist. "Here, they can do more procedures and learn how to interact with patients in an underserved community. That's important because they may be working in that setting eventually."