Residency Program Expanding to Fill Rural Doctor Shortage

January 13, 2016

State funding expands NCMC Family Medicine Residency Program to Sterling.

GREELEY, Colo. – Helping to fill a critical gap in rural providers statewide, North Colorado Family Medicine Residency Training Program (NCFM) is increasing its number of residents per class in 2016 from nine to 11 by adding a rural training track in Sterling. The program expansion stems from a state bill (SB 14-144) that provided funding last year to three Colorado programs in hopes of meeting some of the need for the 260 rural doctors needed statewide, according to a Colorado Health Institute study.

Nationally recognized as one of the top family medicine residency training programs, NCFM provides residents one of the broadest ranges of procedure training found in the U.S. As of July 2014, the program has graduated 250 board certified doctors, about 60 percent of whom continue to practice in rural or underserved areas.

Faculty members are in the process of adding the new Rural Training Track in Sterling, one of only 30 such rural training programs nationally. The three-year program starts in July 2016 with the addition of two new residents who will complete training at Sterling Regional MedCenter during their second and third year, after starting their training in Greeley.

“What makes North Colorado Family Medicine distinct is our ability to train family doctors so broadly with so many different procedures,” explains Dr. David Smith, program director. “Only about five programs nationally are able to offer this level of training, which is largely due to the supportive culture of North Colorado Medical Center.”

The Sterling location adds to the existing Core Track, where the majority of resident physicians train at North Colorado Family Medicine Clinic in adult medicine, pediatrics and obstetrics. Unique to NCFM, the program also offers several optional paths including Advanced Maternity Care, Hospitalist, Sports Medicine, another Rural Training Track in Wray, a Global Health path and the Sunrise Community Health Center Track, which provides comprehensive primary care to low-income families and individuals at 10 clinics in Northern Colorado.

Smith adds “We’ve been working toward adding a rural track in Sterling for nearly 15 years with steady work on the project the last two years. This addition represents North Colorado Family Medicine’s commitment to providing extremely well-trained family physicians to rural America.”

According to Colorado Rural Healthcare, an organization that helps bring providers to rural Colorado areas, its recruitment program has reached an all-time high with 82 jobs open, highlighting the need for such programs. To expand the North Colorado Family Medicine Residency Training Program this year, faculty submitted a 240-page application last February and received approval this fall from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

Similar to other tracks, the training involving Sterling will consist of 13, four-week block schedules and include an ICU rotation, adult medicine, pediatrics, maternity care services as well as sports medicine and orthopedic training, to name a few of the educational experiences.

Out of approximately 600 applicants, 11 new resident physicians, including two for Sterling, will be announced in March as part of the National Resident Matching Program. The new residents will start their three-year program in July, with five in the Core Track, two in the Sunrise Track, two in the Sterling Track, one in the Hospitalist Track and one in the Wray Track.

North Colorado Medical Center is a fully accredited, private, nonprofit facility licensed in Greeley, Colo., operated by Banner Health. It serves as a regional medical center with community-based and specialty services in a service area including southern Wyoming, western Nebraska, western Kansas and northeastern Colorado. For more information, visit