Kala Griffith, MD, had her heart set on completing her family medicine residency in Colorado. The program at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction was the perfect fit.
“My first meeting was virtual during COVID, but I could still feel the good culture coming through (the screen),” she recalled. “The thing that really drew me in was that everyone felt so much like family.”
Karlynn Sievers, MD, practices Family Medicine at St. Mary’s and is the residency associate program director. She says creating a warm, welcoming culture is all by design, with the program evolving to keep pace with changing times since it launched in 1979.
“We've had to continually modernize our approach to training new physicians,” she explained. “Over the years, we have expanded the number of doctors we train, added integrated behavioral health services, and incorporated care managers for complex patients. We have also added training in point-of-care ultrasound, addiction medicine, HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) care, and evidence-based medicine to keep residents up to date with the latest innovations, all on top of keeping up with the latest hospital, clinic, and obstetric medicine.”
A selective, well-rounded program
St. Mary’s family medicine program accepts nine residents each year (for a total of 27 on staff at any given time) to provide high-quality patient care in a learning-supportive atmosphere. Halfway through her three-year residency, Dr. Griffith feels the smaller rural community of Grand Junction offers a broader spectrum of training than she might have received in a more narrowly focused urban hospital.
“The program is so well-rounded,” she said. “I get to work with prenatal and pediatric patients, but also with care managers, social workers, sports medicine specialists and in a procedure clinic.”
Shanece D’Annibale had already been seeing Dr. Griffith for her primary care when she became pregnant last year. In July, Dr. Griffith delivered D’Annibale’s daughter via C-section.
“The doctors here are very family-oriented and they really care about their patients,” D’Annibale said. “I was having issues with my insurance, and they went above and beyond to connect me to resources in different departments. It was just a good experience all the way around.”
“One of the things that sets us apart is our focus on ‘casual’ excellence, the concept that our faculty can provide excellent training while also being approachable and personable,” Dr. Sievers said. “We focus on making sure residents acquire all the skills they need to go into practice. If that means they need extra training in certain procedures, or experience with a certain type of patient or disease process, we work hard to make sure they get it.”
Although that diverse base of training prepares St. Mary’s residents to work in any number of settings and environments, many stay in Colorado because of the appealing work-life balance they can enjoy here.
“While we're lucky to have great faculty at the program, we couldn't do this without everyone at St. Mary's,” Dr. Sievers said. “The nurses, medical assistants, consultants, care coordinators and everyone in our health system are critical in providing training to our residents. We have the full support of our colleagues and hospital administration as we train each class.
“It truly takes a village, and we're lucky to have an incredible village,” she added.