Continuing to Address the Shortage of Family Medicine Physicians

Continuing to address the shortage of family medicine physicians
Residents currently training in the Froedtert & MCW North Side Family Medicine Residency Program.

The shortage of primary care physicians in Wisconsin is acute. A report published in 2018 by the Wisconsin Council on Medical Education and Workforce found that there would be a shortfall of 745 primary care doctors in the state by 2035, at which time about 40 percent of family doctors are expected to retire.

MCW has long held that primary care improves population health and decreases health disparities, and that a robust family medicine workforce is critical to ensure that patients throughout the country have appropriate, effective and accessible care for generations to come. The most impactful way to address this issue is through the creation of additional graduate medical education residencies. MCW has had much success in this area, including creating two new four-year residency programs attached to its regional medical school campuses as well as new family medicine residency programs in the Milwaukee area and Green Bay.

In 2021, under the leadership of Joseph Gravel, MD, chair of MCW’s department of family and community medicine, the new Froedtert & MCW South Side Family Medicine Residency Program was accredited – offering bilingual and culturally competent care to Milwaukee’s Hispanic and Latinx patients and their families. In June 2023, the Froedtert & MCW Forest Home Health Center opened, which serves as the home for this new three-year family medicine residency program training six residents per year. The program, led by MCW associate professor Sabrina Hofmeister, DO, GME ’12, will train family medicine physicians to gain the expertise and skills needed to provide individualized, evidence-based, culturally competent care to patients and families to address the growing need for compassionate and skilled family physicians who can provide care to underserved communities.

In October 2022, the Froedtert & MCW North Side Family Medicine Residency Program achieved full accreditation through a partnership of Milwaukee’s north side community health centers – led by Milwaukee Health Services, Inc., MCW’s department of family and community medicine, and Froedtert Hospital. This new residency program, like the South Side Family Residency Program, is focused on training compassionate family physicians who will address existing health inequities, especially among the Black/African American community. Training of the first 14 residents in the initial cohort began in July 2023 under the leadership of residency program director, MCW associate professor Camille Garrison, MD ’06, GME ’09.

The program will promote physicians to become health advocates within their respective communities as well as the medical community at large – incorporating a deep understanding of the social determinants of health and a commitment to actively reducing health inequities. Through competency-based education and interaction with innovative healthcare systems and leaders, this new residency program will equip graduates with the foundation needed to practice successfully in the most challenging of clinical settings and align with the needs of the community. The program also seeks to help build a pathway for underrepresented in medicine students for primary care practice while increasing healthcare access for people living on the north side of Milwaukee.

“We hope that MCW’s recent efforts to expand residency programs in family medicine will be duplicated throughout the state so that our communities and our patients will not face as dire a shortfall of primary care physicians as is expected at present. Additionally, we hope that MCW’s model of partnering with community health centers will become the gold standard in family medicine residency training,” says Joseph E. Kerschner, MD ’90, FEL ’98, MCW provost and executive vice president, and the Julia A. Uihlein, MA, Dean of the School of Medicine.

– Sara L. Wilkins

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