New program helps ECU, Vidant train physicians to better serve rural communities

The Brody School of Medicine and Vidant Health have launched a new rural family medicine residency program that will give recent medical school graduates interested in serving as family doctors in rural communities firsthand experience. 

The residents will spend a majority of their first year of training at Vidant Medical Center and ECU’s Family Medicine Center in Greenville. They will then spend the next two years training in either the rural Hertford County community of Ahoskie at the Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center and Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital or in Duplin County at Goshen Medical Center in Beulaville and Vidant Duplin Hospital in Kenansville. 

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, more than 65% of physicians who completed family medicine residency training between 2010 and 2019 are still practicing in the state where they did their residency training. 

“Practicing family medicine in rural settings like this is a bit of a calling; you have to want to do it. It’s not always easy, but it is rewarding, and you feel like you probably make a difference most days,” said Dr. Danny Pate, a site director for the residency program who has been a family doctor in Duplin County for nearly four decades. “So hopefully by providing these residents with training that gives them a true feel for what it’s like, it will entice them to stay in some rural setting here.” 

Dr. Amy White-Jones, a native of the Alexander County town of Taylorsville, was one of the four residents chosen for the program’s inaugural group out of nearly 100 applicants. 

“When I was growing up, we didn’t really have great access to health care, and so I grew up realizing that the underserved populations are the ones who I want to serve,” said White-Jones, who will complete her residency training in Duplin County. “There are not a lot of people who are fighting for them and saying, ‘Hey, I want to figure out a way that we can make your health a priority.’ That’s why I want to do rural medicine.” 

As of 2019, more than half of ECU medical graduates were practicing in North Carolina. More than half of those were in primary care.