BIG STONE GAP — A program that trains a new generation of physicians marked two more milestones earlier this week in Southwest Virginia.
The family medicine program created by Wellmont Health System and Lincoln Memorial University’s DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine (LMU-DCOM) welcomed nine new residents during ceremonies Tuesday on the campus of Mountain Empire Community College in Big Stone Gap, and also celebrated as Dr. Aaron Porter became the program’s first graduate.
“We are thrilled to have nine new physicians joining our residency program and to have one of our initial residents ready to establish his practice,” said David Brash, Wellmont’s senior vice president of business development and rural strategy. “This has been a remarkable effort to boost the quality of life in Southwest Virginia, and we look forward to continue bolstering our foundation of superior health care in this region.”
Now entering its third year, the residency program is based at Lonesome Pine Hospital in Big Stone Gap and is designed to increase the number of physicians serving the region. Porter will join Wellmont Medical Associates in the coming weeks.
“It’s been an honor to be part of the framework of something new and beneficial for our patients,” Porter said. “I’ve gotten to work with a great group of talented people and received excellent guidance from attending physicians. This has developed into a highly successful program that will enhance the health care delivery system in our region.”
The nine new first-year residents welcomed aboard Tuesday include Dr. Ayman Alsharbini, a graduate of A.T. Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine; Dr. Rene Brown, a graduate of West Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine; Dr. Matthew Easton, a graduate of University of Pikeville College of Osteopathic Medicine; Dr. Denisha Shah, a graduate of Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine; and LMU-DCOM graduate Drs. Sherry Cline, Joe Drumm, Johan Koo and Michele Pearman.
Also, the program announced that Dr. Brian Enriquez, a graduate of Touro University Nevada medical school, will join the program as a second-year resident. Enriquez completed an internship at Valley Hospital Medical Center in Las Vegas.
With the new additions, the program will now have 19 residents. The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) has granted approval for the program to have as many as 24 physicians.
LMU-DCOM has long enjoyed a strong partnership with Wellmont, said Dr. Ray Stowers, the school’s founding dean and president of the AOA.
“It’s a pleasure to welcome the program’s first graduate into practice,” he said, “and we are eager to see what these physicians will accomplish for our region in the years to come.”
The three-year residency program includes the first year at Lonesome Pine Hospital and Mountain View Regional Medical Center in Norton. In subsequent years, the physicians will also care for patients at Lee Regional Medical Center in Pennington Gap as well as Holston Valley Medical Center and Bristol Regional Medical Center.
Mountain View Regional became a training site earlier this year when Wellmont combined the federal provider numbers of the health system’s hospitals in Norton and Big Stone Gap. In addition to the hospital facilities, the physicians deliver care at Wellmont’s Family Medicine Residency Clinic at 295 Wharton Lane in Norton.
The residency program “provides diverse experiences for our physicians, who benefit from seeing care delivery in a community hospital setting and in our larger hospitals,” said Dr. Maurice Nida, Wellmont’s director of medical education. “This prepares them well for starting a practice in Southwest Virginia and enables them to see medical care from a broad perspective.”
Residency Program Director Dr. Thomas Roatsey said the program’s success will be a boon for the region.
“It is great to see this program progress and start to fulfill its goal of increasing patient access to physicians in Southwest Virginia,” Roatsey said. “We are proud to be the leaders in ensuring that the communities we serve receive the care they need, and the residents in this program are reinforcing our longstanding commitment to improve the health status of our patients.”