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Whitesburg ARH will soon become ‘teaching hosptal’


Beginning in July, Whitesburg Appalachian Regional Hospital will officially be a teaching hospital.

Appalachian Regional Healthcare received notification Tuesday afternoon that the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education has approved the Whitesburg and Harlan hospitals to teach residents in internal medicine.

Kentucky requires doctors to complete two years of residency before they can apply for medical licensure. The ARH program will be a three-year program, which makes the doctors eligible to test for certification by the American Board of Internal Medicine.

Dr. Bernie Sergent, a Deane native who served as director of the residency program at Norton Community Hospital, will be the program director in Whitesburg.

The Whitesburg Hospital has for several years accepted second-year medical students from the University of Pikeville’s Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine for half-day observation classes, and third-year and fourth-year medical students for month-long clinical rotations, but has not been certified to accept residents until now. A program for residents, who have already earned the title doctor, is what makes a teaching hospital.

Sergent said Tuesday that ARH has been working with Lincoln Memorial University’s Debusk College of Osteopathic Medicine to establish the program and get its accreditations, and will be working closely with Debusk and Pikeville to place residents. The hospitals will accept applications from medical doctors or doctors of osteopathic medicine from any medical school.

Sergent said ARH will be able to place residents at any hospital in its system, but the primary hospitals in the new program will be Whiteswith burg and Harlan. He said the hospital chain is hopeful the program will attract local medical students who will want to stay in the area when they complete their training.

Pikeville Medical Center and Hazard ARH accept family practice residents, but Whitesburg and Harlan will be the only two hospitals in the area that teach internal medicine residents.

Residents are doctors, and are paid while they complete their residency. Those in the ARH internal medicine program will start at $51,500 per year, plus benefits.

Internal medicine is a specialty field that deals with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of adult disease. Most of the patients of internists are older and sicker than others, and many suffer from chronic illnesses such as a cardiac conditions, diabetes, and kidney disease.

The American College of Internal Medicine recognizes 19 subspecialties of internal medicine, and the American College of Osteopathic Internists recognizes 12. Subspecialties include: adolescent medicine; allergy/ asthma and immunology; cardiology; critical care medicine; endocrinology; hematology; infectious disease; nephrology; and pulmonology. Doctors must attend additional years for fellowships in order to specialize in any of those fields, though they do rotations through them during their residency. Those fellowships would be at larger hospitals, such as the University of Kentucky or the University of Louisville.

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