Conway Medical Center working to alleviate physician shortage in Horry County with new residency program

Published: May. 23, 2019 at 12:57 PM EDT
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CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Conway Medical Center is making strides toward alleviating the physician shortage in Horry County, thanks to a $1 million grant from The Duke Endowment.

This grant will assist in the development of a new residency program in partnership with the Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Buies Creek, N.C. Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine and Doctors of Medicine are both similarly educated and certified, with a slight difference in philosophy, though patients should not see much of a difference in terms of medical care.

Doctors of Osteopathic medicine take a more holistic approach to patient care. Some manual medicine therapies, such as spinal manipulation or massage therapy, as part of their treatment.

Horry County is considered a medically underserved area and health professional shortage area by the Health Research and Services Administration, meaning the doctor to patient ratio is low. Dr. Paul Richardson, the chief medical officer at Conway Medical Center, said while Horry County continues to see growth, it’s still considered a rural area. With the growing population, there’s not enough physicians available to keep up with the demand.

Richardson said it’s harder to recruit physicians in Horry County since it’s competing against larger metropolitan areas in the state. He added that the county will need approximately 98 more primary care physicians in the next three to five years. This residency program, he added, will provide a long-term and sustainable solution to address a growing need.

“We’re going to be having third- and fourth-year medical students here on campus doing their training here, learning from our faculty here at Conway Medical Center, and then our residency program will actually allow graduates of medical school to train in family practice here, so they’ll get their experience over their three year residency," Richardson said.

Research shows physicians who complete residencies in South Carolina are 45 percent more likely to practice within 50 miles of where they trained.

“This grant will help CMC increase access to healthcare for at least 6,000 patients annually in Horry County through the residency program,” said Bret Barr, president and CEO of Conway Medical Center. “Approximately 2,000 patients served by this program will be medically underserved. We appreciate and value the support of The Duke Endowment to assist us in continuing to serve our community.”

In preparation for the first group of residents to arrive in July 2020, CMC will construct a 15,000 square-foot family residency building next to the hospital on Myrtle Trace Drive.

The building will feature 18 exam rooms, along with education space and locker rooms. Residents will complete rotations in various specialties, including family medicine, cardiology, surgery, rural medicine, and disaster recovery. They will be trained and learn their roles in various emergency plans, such as natural disasters.

Richardson said Campbell University created this curriculum following recent storms’ devastation to the Lumberton area.

Right now, demolition of the three existing CMC buildings off Myrtle Trace Drive and construction of the new building is scheduled to start in July. The new residency facility is set to open a year later.

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