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Partnership to help bring doctors to underserved populations

Katie Peikes
Delaware Public Media
Ivelisse Cruz (left), Jenni Quiroz and Nicole Valdez (right) are medical assistants working on the first floor of the Christiana Care Family Medicine Center at Westside Family Healthcare.

A partnership between Christiana Care Health System and Westside Family Healthcare looks to reduce a shortage of primary care physicians in some Delaware communities. 

“Research shows that physician residents trained in community health centers are three times as likely to actually work in community health centers and two times as likely to work in underserved communities,” said Lolita Lopez, CEO and president of Westside Family Healthcare.

To help bring doctors to the First State’s underserved communities, Westside Family Healthcare and Christiana Care Health System have established a continuity training site. This program takes recent medical school graduates — called “family medicine residents” — and allows them to train as physicians in areas that need more doctors. 

The Christiana Care Family Medicine Center at Westside Family Healthcare is the first of its kind in Delaware. Dr. Neil Jasani, the Chief Learning Officer at Christiana Care, said some portions of Wilmington are underserved — meaning there may be as few as one doctor per every 3,500 people.

“I think a program like this helps to meet those demands for physician services and in this setting we have three residents who are here full-time with faculty seeing patients,” Jasani said.

One of those residents is LeAnn Tanaka, who is in her last year of residency before qualifying to be a full-time physician.

“We see kind of how quickly things really move, the resources they have at their disposal, so it’s a really great learning experience for what’s to come,” Tanaka said.

Jasani said the plan is to build and grow this partnership and see how well it can meet the needs of the community.