Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Partnership brings careers to Crossroads

Tuesday, the meeting room at the DeTar MEDI Center was abuzz and understandably so. During a 2 p.m. press conference, Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp and DeTar Healthcare Systems CEO Bill Blanchard signed an agreement to establish a family medicine residency program in Victoria.

That's big news for our community, and the reasons to celebrate are numerous.

For starters, expanding the number of doctors in Texas is critical. In 2010, Texas ranked 47th in the country with 70 active primary care physicians per 100,000 people, according to the Regional Healthcare Partnership project proposal. And while our state is racing to expand its medical school programs to keep pace with our population boom, there is a corresponding shortage of residency programs in which those graduating medical students can participate.

But closer to home, this program will bolster local health care. A medical residency program is very similar to an internship in any field of study. And as with any good internship program, bringing in recent graduates or students in training always brings a fresh perspective and energy that cannot be duplicated. It also elevates the game of the existing staff as the responsibility of mentoring and training these new doctors becomes top-of-mind. And a good internship program provides a strong pipeline of recruits who are intimately familiar with the existing work environment and vice versa, leading to temporary residents becoming permanent. In the case of Victoria, we have an aging population of doctors, and this program can provide a much-needed succession plan for the future of our local health care. Finally, at its peak, this program will add 18 doctors in training and four additional full-time physicians, increasing the total number of doctors available to serve the Victoria area.

The local benefits don't just end with health care. These 22 new doctors and the accompanying support staff add to our employment base. These are new, highly educated, high-income positions being added to the Crossroads economy, and they bring with them the associated housing, retail and tax-base contributions to the local economy. This agreement also forges yet another partnership with an institute of higher education, and we believe education provided by any quality institution ultimately improves our local educational attainment, and therefore, our economic potential.

In closing, this project couldn't have happened without the support, commitment and hard work from a number of people over the past two years. Our hats are off to DeTar board member Dennis Patillo, who got the conversation started with Sharp, who, along with Victorian and Texas A&M Board of Regents Vice Chairman Cliff Thomas, strongly supported Texas A&M's participation in the program. And to State Rep. Geanie Morrison, thank you for providing legislative and political support that allowed the program to happen. But most of all, thanks to Blanchard, who not only brought all parties to the table and kept the project moving forward but also convinced his parent company, Community Health Systems, to make a substantial investment in our community. Blanchard said it has always been his dream to be the administrator of a teaching hospital, and now, that dream can be realized.

To Blanchard, CHS and all the rest of the players that made this happen, congratulations, and we salute you.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.