Recruitment will begin this fall to select two individuals to fill the first-ever spots in the new Maine Behavioral Healthcare Rural Residency Training Track. The result of years of effort, grant applications and planning, the four-year track will operate within the existing Psychiatry Residency Program, while giving participants a unique opportunity to provide care in communities that are substantially under-resourced.
Dan Price, MD, Director of Residency Training for the Psychiatry Department at Maine Medical Center, spearheaded development of the new training track, with support from psychiatrist Dena Whitesell, MD. Due to the popularity of the existing psychiatry residency program, Drs. Price and Whitesell identified an opportunity to increase residency class size and to harness that growth to address a need in rural Maine communities.
High-Quality Psychiatric Care, Close to Home
Psychiatry services and resources in rural Maine differ vastly form those in more urban areas. Residents will be trained to handle the particular challenges of delivering care over a wide geographic area, which Dr. Whitesell emphasized, saying: “Not only do rural areas experience a shortage of providers and resources, but there is a lack of boundaries in small communities. Providers will learn to navigate those experiences unique to non-urban regions.”
The Rural Residency Training Track, which will officially begin in July of 2022, will use the existing infrastructure of the Portland-based residency program. All seven psychiatry residents will complete rotations and training at or near Maine Medical Center for the first two years of their respective tracks.
“We have a thriving general residency program already in place with happy, collegial residents and an experienced faculty,” said Dr. Whitesell, the lead for the Rural Residency Training Track. “This track is a new program, but instead of the uncertainties that come with a new program, we have the support of an existing infrastructure.”
The rural track residents will go onto complete their final two years in clinic settings in the Midcoast Maine region, at Pen Bay Medical Center and MBH clinics in Damariscotta, Belfast and Rockland.
In addition to providing unique training, the Rural Residency Training Track will bring integrated care to populations who need broader access to mental health services—emphasizing the importance of interdisciplinary care of an underserved population.
The ultimate goal of the new track is to expand access to mental health services in underserved areas. In implementing a rural-focused training program, Maine Behavioral Healthcare is planning for future needs while addressing the continued shortage of providers in these regions. Dr. Whitesell explained, “Our leadership has really advocated for this program. It has been a long time coming.”