Three years ago, Greater Seacoast Community Health joined with Portsmouth Regional Hospital and Tufts University School of Medicine to bring the first Family Medicine Residency Program to the New Hampshire Seacoast. This affiliation and partnership has increased access to physician care in the Seacoast region and put the organization on the map as a teaching program for new physicians.
Today, the program is at full capacity, with 12 residents serving more than 2,500 patients as one of six primary-care teams at Goodwin and Families First. Recently, the program welcomed a new Associate Program Director, Dr. Michael Samaan, who will also be seeing patients at Goodwin Community Health.
‘The Full Scope of Traditional Family Physician Experience’
Through the residency program, Greater Seacoast Community Health – which includes Goodwin Community Health in Somersworth and Families First Health & Support Center in Portsmouth — offers a community-based, full-time primary care clinic at Goodwin, called the Continuity Clinic.
“The partnership has been a major asset for our organization as it’s allowed us to keep up to date with newer medical innovations that come from being affiliated with a hospital network and Tufts University,” said Dr. Joann Buonomano, a core faculty member of the residency program and Greater Seacoast’s Chief Medical Officer.
In addition to the 12 residents working in the Continuity Clinic at Goodwin, all 24 residents from the Family Medicine Residency program complete specialty rotations throughout Greater Seacoast, including prenatal care at Families First Health, mobile health clinics in the community, and medication-assisted recovery and psychiatry experiences at Goodwin. During their prenatal rotation, residents work with Dr. Megan Carey of Families First, who coordinates care with Harbour Women’s Health to deliver babies at Portsmouth Regional Hospital.
“It’s the full scope of traditional family physician experience,” said Dr. Buonomano.
How Resident Physicians Benefit
The three-year Family Medicine Residency Program here in the Seacoast attracts applicants from all over the country, with 500 candidates applying each year for the eight program openings. Greater Seacoast Community Health is currently the only Federally Qualified Health Center in New Hampshire to formally partner with a residency program. (Plans for programs in Keene and in Berlin are in progress.)
Community health centers like Families First and Goodwin are desirable places for residents to practice primary care after completing their training, as working at a community health center makes them eligible for loan repayment as part of the National Health Service Corps.
“Residents are passionate about delivering care to patients with complex medical challenges and other obstacles related to the social determinants of health,” said Dr. Buonomano. “The enthusiasm of these young doctors coming out of medical school has been inspiring and builds a foundation of hope for the future of compassionate health care.”
How Patients Benefit
Dr. Buonomano, previously a full-scope rural family physician, sees the value that the residents’ hospital experience brings to the outpatient Continuity Clinic.
“They provide a bridge for patients hospitalized at Portsmouth Regional Hospital and help us fulfill our advocacy role as primary-care providers within this complex health care setting,” she said.
One way patients benefit from having a resident physician as their primary care provider is that they are also seen by the resident’s preceptor or teacher, another physician who supervises their clinical experience. Patients get the best of both worlds: residents who have the latest medical knowledge, and the wisdom of physicians who have been practicing medicine for many years. The program’s preceptors include faculty and physicians at Families First and Goodwin, as well as other physicians from surrounding community practices.
“This program is a growing asset as we become more seasoned as a faculty team,” said Dr. Buonomano. “We have been successful in attracting skilled core faculty and skilled community preceptors who are passionate about the critical role of primary care within an increasingly complex and specialized industry.”
Dr. Samaan, the new Associate Residency Program Director, is one of these seasoned faculty members helping to develop young doctors. He brings to this role two decades of experience in family medicine at hospitals and practices in Alaska and Texas, as well as having served on the faculty of the Alaska Family Medicine Residency and being a Marine Corps veteran. He will work closely with resident physicians and see patients as a primary care provider at Goodwin Community Health.
Residents say the preceptors’ knowledge and experience ensure they provide the best care to the patients they see.
“I’m confident that when I leave here, I will be well-prepared,” said Dr. Matthew Nagelschmidt, a third-year resident. “I’m more confident in my clinical work, thanks to being here.” The preceptors each bring a unique way to help mold the residents, he said, so residents can take the best from their preceptors to better meet patient needs.
First-year resident Dr. Bashir Heidari said the preceptors are very thorough and knowledgeable and that the complex cases he has seen at Goodwin have been a great learning experience to help him further develop his skills as a physician. “The preceptors have made a difference in ensuring the lives of our patients are improving. Dr. Buonomano is amazing,” he said. “We’re helping people in need have access to health care, and that’s great.”