WSU and Providence Start New Pediatric Residency in Spokane

Medical student looking in child's ear

Providence and the College of Medicine announced a partnership to establish eastern Washington’s first pediatric medical residency in March 2023. 

The new pediatric residency promises to improve the depth and breadth of overall children’s healthcare in Spokane as well as foster aspiring physicians from the College of Medicine and other medical schools.

The launch of the community-based residency program is made possible through the diligent support and commitment of the Community Cancer Fund, Premera Blue Cross, Providence INWA Foundation donors and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. 

“Launching Washington’s first pediatric residency program east of the Cascades is a monumental step towards improving access to healthcare in our state and furthering WSU’s land-grant mission of serving the public good,” said WSU President Kirk Schulz. “As nationwide healthcare demands continue to increase, providing residency training will develop a pipeline of physicians committed to ensuring care for communities on this side of the state and beyond.”

Daryll DeWald, executive vice president of WSU Health Sciences, credits much of the program’s creation to the collective vision of leaders in Spokane and at the state level. 

The three-year residency program will admit six residents each year for a total of 18 residents once the first three cohorts are filled. Recruitment has begun with the first residents expected to begin their training in summer 2024.

Residents will receive comprehensive training in pediatric specialties and foundational experiences, as well as sessions in community pediatrics, child advocacy, adolescent medicine, developmental-behavioral pediatrics and mental health to prepare them for practice in general pediatrics. Training will occur primarily at Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital and several pediatric primary care practices in the community.

Training residents in Spokane and the Inland Northwest is critical to providing pediatricians for the community. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, about 41% of new physicians practice in Washington if they attended medical school here. That number increases to 70% when they complete both their medical education and their residency in Washington.

“We are deeply committed to expanding medical education and improving healthcare quality and access in communities across Washington,” said Jim Record, dean of the WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. “A critical part of our commitment is creating residencies in our communities to increase the chance that medical students will remain here in Washington to practice medicine.”

According to 2018 Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education data, there are 168 training programs in the state, with 78 of those accredited as specialty residencies and 90 accredited as sub-specialty fellowship training programs. Nationally, there is an average of 37.8 GME trainees per 100,000 population, while in the state of Washington, the average is 27.1 trainees per 100,000 population. This places the state just below middle of the pack with a ranking of 28th out of the 50 states for trainees per 100,000 population. The addition of the WSU pediatric residency program makes it only the third pediatric residency program in the state with the other two in the Seattle and Tacoma areas. 

However, when examining the distribution of these programs and trainees, there is a significant disparity in eastern and central Washington. Of the 168 training programs, 158 (94%) are located west of the Cascades, while just 10 of the programs are located east of the Cascades. This results in approximately 32.7 trainees per 100,000 population west of the Cascades and just 8.6 trainees per 100,000 population east of the Cascades. This program is a step in the right direction to address that disparity and serve the children in our communities. 

The alignment of missions and steadfast partnerships between WSU, Providence Inland Northwest Washington, Community Cancer Fund, and Premera Blue Cross allows us to make children’s health care a priority and set the foundation to improve the health of our communities long into the future. 

Christian Rocholl, MD, a pediatric emergency medicine physician for more than 20 years including the past 18 years at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, will serve as the program director leading operations, recruitment and education for the residency program. Along with a collective of pediatricians in the region, he was instrumental in helping bring the new residency to fruition.

“As a pediatrician with Providence, I’ve seen firsthand the significant need we have for more pediatricians and pediatric specialties across eastern Washington,” said Rocholl. “I am thrilled to see this residency program come to fruition and look forward to leading and training the next generation of pediatricians who will serve our community’s children for years to come.”