Given our challenging times, it is refreshing to stop on occasion and celebrate our notable events. In November 2020, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of our Family Medicine Residency Program at Summa Health System – Akron Campus. This milestone gives us a prime opportunity to reflect on the value of Summa Family Medicine to the thousands of patients we have served over the years.
Our program, one of the earliest in the U.S., was started in 1970 by Dr. Ed Shahady, when family medicine was born as a specialty from the previous general practice model. The new specialty improved training into a three-year residency model to develop generalist physicians’ ability to provide care throughout the entire lifespan and across all care settings including inpatient, uncomplicated obstetrics, adult, pediatric and end of life. Thanks to its rich teaching history, dedicated faculty and collaborative culture, Summa (then, Akron City) was the ideal environment in which to foster the new primary care specialty. Since its inception, the program has graduated over 300 family physicians who have had an impact throughout our community, our region and the world, caring for people across the U.S., from Kenya to Japan, and from Canada to Honduras.
The core tenet of family medicine and primary care in general is vitally important long-term relationship between the patient and their physician. Just as family medicine was a new innovation in 1970, we have now been faced with a critical need for rapid innovation in our system due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have all become more skilled in telehealth visits, which provide our patients with much-needed ongoing care, while minimizing their exposure risks. The need for physicians who can provide excellent care remotely, because they know their patients better than anyone, has never been greater. Training across a broad spectrum allows family physicians to step in to provide care in most clinical settings, and skillfully coordinate with our specialty colleagues when needed. This has been crucial, as many were called to assist with pandemic surge plans across the country, especially in areas where health systems were overwhelmed. Many of our own local physicians responded during our call for volunteers last year. Their leadership of our teams, which include a nurse practitioner, nursing staff, physician assistant, pharmacist and integrated behavioral health colleagues, has been and still is critical as we move into the future.
Trained to take a whole-person approach, family physicians are best positioned to discern what additional factors are affecting their patients. Whether it is health disparities due to lack of access, racial injustice, or behavioral health issues, we will continue to care for our patients individually and advocate for societal system changes, leading to better health for all. We renew our continued commitment to recruit and train resident physicians who reflect the diversity of our patients in the community.
As we reflect on our recent 50th anniversary, congratulate our graduating residents, and welcome our current new class, we look forward to training future family physicians for the next 50 years, and beyond.