Attracting Psychiatry Talent to West Michigan Through Advanced Training Programs

Attracting Psychiatry Talent to West Michigan Through Advanced Training Programs 1|Attracting Psychiatry Talent to West Michigan Through Advanced Training Programs 2

Local psychiatry residency and fellowship programs attract talented physicians at the beginning of their careers to learn and serve in West Michigan

Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, West Michigan was experiencing a shortage of psychiatrists to meet the need in our community. Many psychiatrists have preferred to stay on the coasts, in large metropolitan areas or specifically near areas where they trained. In fact, research shows that a majority of physicians stay within 100 miles of where they completed their residency and/or fellowship programs.

That realization was part of the inspiration behind the Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services (Pine Rest) Psychiatry Residency & Fellowship Programs’ inception. West Michiganders know what an amazing place Grand Rapids and West Michigan are to work and live; the bet was that when residents and fellows trained here, they would feel the same and would want to put down roots in our vibrant community. In addition, Pine Rest being the largest mental health provider in the state and West Michigan having the large concentration of medical providers and research in the area, the region offers plenty of opportunities for trainees and graduates.

In 2014, Pine Rest partnered with Michigan State University College of Human Medicine to launch a psychiatry residency at Pine Rest with the first class of eight.

The residency program was successful from the beginning, receiving hundreds of applications from across the country in its first year. Within a few years, the program considerably expanded the number of patients who could receive treatment in the area.

By the time the first class was graduating in 2018, the program was able to expand the number of residents it could train each year and had started creating psychiatry fellowship programs to provide advanced training for in demand specialties including child & adolescent, geriatric, forensic and addiction. More recently, a rural track was added in Traverse City to help train psychiatrists in Northern Michigan where the psychiatry shortage is even serious.

Attracting Psychiatry Talent to West Michigan Through Advanced Training Programs 2“By expanding and creating the residency and fellowships, there is an opportunity to address the shortage of psychiatrists and fill the holes for patients searching for mental healthcare,” said Bill Sanders, DO, Chief Medical Officer at Pine Rest. “The increase of new talent is making a huge impact, helping to reduce wait times and provide patients with the treatment they deserve and expect from Pine Rest.”

In only eight years, the psychiatry residency and fellowship program has graduated 39 residents and 10 fellows. With 51 current residents and fellows, the program is the largest training program in the state of Michigan, Dr. Sanders estimates that the medical residency and fellowship programs have resulted in thousands of patients receiving care each year.

The program has also built a great reputation in this short time, ranking in the top 19% in Michigan and the top 30% in the Midwest and the nation for reputation by Doximity.

More importantly, 40 percent of graduates have stayed on at Pine Rest and nearly 60 percent have remained in Michigan. These program numbers demonstrate that the investment in educational training is reducing brain drain and creating a national pipeline for psychiatry talent to West Michigan.

The current 42 residents and 9 fellows came to Pine Rest from eighteen different states. They work in different settings at Pine Rest including urgent care, inpatient, partial hospitalization, outpatient, community and residential services as well as at community partners including Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Mary Free Bed, Wedgwood Christian Services, Forest View Hospital, Cherry Health, Network 180, Spectrum Health hospitals, Trinity Health hospitals and Michigan Department of Corrections. In addition, they volunteer throughout the community including at local schools.

“Not only do our residents and fellows provide  additional psychiatric support for the community and our teams, they also challenge the status quo within our departments and make our work within Pine Rest’s continuum of care better,” said Dr. Sanders.

As we all know, the pandemic has created an unprecedented need for mental health treatment at all levels, including psychiatry. The Pine Rest Psychiatry Residency & Fellowship program will continue to help address access to these services. In addition, Pine Rest has created new models that provide psychiatry services to more patients, more quickly. They will continue to envision and implement new programs in the community until all residents can access the care they need when they need it … creating a hub for behavioral healthcare in our own backyard.


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