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St. Luke’s Pioneering Rural Residency Program Marks Anniversary
July 18, 2019

Other health care systems to emulate St. Luke’s rural model.

Out of the 93 rurally located family medicine residency programs in the United States, St. Luke’s Miners Campus’ is one of just 34 nationwide – and the only one in Pennsylvania – that are accredited as integrated rural training tracks. This month, the program marks the successful conclusion of its first year and, after the recent reaccreditation by the Accreditation Council for Graduation Medical Education, the start of its second year with two new residents.

“St. Luke’s is proud to have pioneered the rural residency concept in Pennsylvania,” said Wendy Lazo, President of St. Luke’s Miners Campus in Coaldale.

On July 1, two newly licensed doctors with local ties joined the Rural Training Track of St. Luke’s Family Medicine Residency Program.

Daniel Plavin, who once was part of St. Luke’s Future Physicians Program at Jim Thorpe High Area School, and Alexandra Rebuck of Danville, were selected from hundreds of applicants from throughout the world.

“Residents with local ties are more likely to settle where they train,” said Program Director Thomas McGinley, MD. “The goal is to develop a new generation of physicians to serve Coal Country and other rural areas facing doctor shortages.”

The three-year Family Medicine Rural Training Track has two residents in each year, having welcomed its first class in July 2018. The residents spend three months in the first year at St. Luke’s Hometown Rural Health Center in Tamaqua, and nine months there in both the second and third years.

St. Luke’s Hometown Rural Health Center is a national model – honored by the National Rural Health Association with its 2018 Outstanding Rural Health Organization award. The award recognizes St. Luke’s commitment to expanding and improving access to health care in Carbon and Schuylkill counties’ Coal Country.

St. Luke’s Hometown Rural Health Center is one of St. Luke’s several federally designated rural health centers in Coal Country. Others are located in Nesquehoning and Ringtown. (A fourth clinic that recently opened in Lansford is awaiting federal designation.) These special clinics accept private insurances, medical assistance, Medicare and patients who are uninsured.

The rural health clinics handle thousands of patient visits annually, delivering high-quality primary care and community outreach programs to underserved populations.  Among the innovative programs implemented by the Rural Health Clinics has been the Flinders Chronic Condition Management Program, an interventional initiative that has focused on improving the health of patients with diabetes and decreasing emergency department utilization among patients who had previously demonstrated unusually high rates of emergency department usage.

In Harrisburg today, Health Resources and Services Administration Administrator Dr. George Sigounas is announcing a workforce grant that will be used to develop new rural residency programs and expand the medical workforce in rural areas across Pennsylvania.

“St. Luke’s continues to pave the way for other healthcare organizations to help secure the future of healthcare in rural communities,” Lazo said.


About St. Luke’s

Founded in 1872, St. Luke’s University Health Network (SLUHN) is a fully integrated, regional, non-profit network of more than 15,000 employees providing services at 10 hospitals and 300 outpatient sites.  With annual net revenue greater than $2 billion, the Network’s service area includes 11 counties: Lehigh, Northampton, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Montgomery, Monroe, Schuylkill and Luzerne counties in Pennsylvania and Warren and Hunterdon counties in New Jersey.  Dedicated to advancing medical education, St. Luke’s is the preeminent teaching hospital in central-eastern Pennsylvania.  In partnership with Temple University, St. Luke’s created the Lehigh Valley’s first and only regional medical school campus.  It also operates the nation’s longest continuously operating School of Nursing, established in 1884, and 34 fully accredited graduate medical educational programs with 263 residents and fellows.  St. Luke’s is the only Lehigh Valley-based health care system with Medicare’s five- and four-star ratings (the highest) for quality, efficiency and patient satisfaction.  St. Luke’s is both a Leapfrog Group and Healthgrades Top Hospital and a Newsweek World’s Best Hospital.  In 2019, three of IBM Watson Health’s 100 Top Hospitals were St. Luke’s hospitals.  St. Luke’s University Hospital has earned the 100 Top Major Teaching Hospital designation from IBM Watson Health seven times total and five years in a row. St. Luke’s has also been cited by IBM Watson Health as a 50 Top Cardiovascular Program.  Utilizing the Epic electronic medical record (EMR) system for both inpatient and outpatient services, the Network is a multi-year recipient of the Most Wired award recognizing the breadth of the SLUHN’s information technology applications such as telehealth, online scheduling and online pricing information.  St. Luke’s is also recognized as one of the state’s lowest cost providers.