ELKO – Rainy weather did not dampen spirits at the opening of new Elko Family Medicine Residence Program on Thursday.
More than 130 people gathered inside Nevada Health Center’s waiting room and spilled out into hallways to formally open the program and meet residents from the University of Nevada Reno’s School of Medicine, Dr. Scarlett Cavalli Davneshvar and Dr. Nittu Singh.
Initially planned for outdoors, the ceremony was moved inside due to rain. The evening also included a tour of the recently renovated expansion that began construction in February.
Bringing a residency program to Elko started with a “what if” question, said Walter B. Davis, president and CEO of Nevada Heath Centers.
“What if we were to partner with the school of medicine residency program?” Davis said. “It was an issue that we had with getting providers in the community.”
UNR School of Medicine Dean Thomas L. Schwenk said the residency program “is a prime example of UNR Med’s commitment to expanding health care access to rural Nevada and providing exceptional care for rural residents.”
The program will begin with two residents, and eventually increase to six in July 2019, Schwenk said. He credited Gov. Brian Sandoval and the Nevada Legislature for funding the Task Force on Graduate Medical Education as being “a critical piece that made this happen.”
The $1.4 million grant “jump started this,” Schwenk said. “This is the kind of state support that is so critical to expanding health care in rural communities.”
Dr. Daniel Spogen, chair of the UNR Med family and community medicine, and Dr. Richard Williams, UNR Med residency program director, will oversee the residency program, which also includes clinical faculty Dr. Steve Lore and Dr. Jacqueline Huynh.
According to UNR Med and Nevada Health Centers, it is anticipated that the six residents will serve approximately 6,000 patients in Elko, where a resident could see about 35 per week.
One of the residents on staff since July, Singh said she was enjoying getting to know her patients and understood the need for rural health care, explaining she came from a rural area herself in central California.
“I know how hard it can be for patients and their family to travel to get good health care,” Singh said. “I think our family medicine can provide that continuity of care and the dynamic resources that we can do here.”
Regent Cathy McAdoo said she was proud of the community for turning out for the grand opening of the facility, and “what it means for the residents of Elko, but also Elko County and surrounding areas.”
“Together, UNR Med and Nevada Health Centers will further transform Elko County by providing the highest quality health care to our residents and our families,” McAdoo said.
Elko County Commissioner Delmo Andreozzi called the residency program based in Elko “an evolution in health care” and said the evening was mixed with excitement and nostalgia as he stood in the waiting room of the former Elko Clinic.
“I remember being in this wing as a child a long time ago,” Andreozzi said. “And to come back and see this … wow!”
On Feb. 22, Andreozzi was among those who participated in a ceremonial “wall-breaking” to expand an unused section of the Health Center in the first phase of an overhaul of the building.
The newly renovated section includes a medical assist station, resident collaboration area, telehealth services, onsite lab facility, an x-ray room, a procedure room and 16 exam rooms.
Davis thanked major sponsors the EJC Foundation, Barrick Gold Corp. and Newmont Mining Corp. for their support, adding that an advisory committee would be formed with a charter to guide the program.
But for now, the launch of the program “shows what a true partnership can do,” Davis said, adding he hopes it will be noticeable when patients walk through the doors of the Nevada Health Center.
“When patients come through this door, we want them to really see the richness of the education that they will be receiving from our providers and the care,” Davis said, “but also that this is the place to take care of your health care needs.”